August 26, 2009 11:23 a.m.

Kennedy at Rabin’s funeral …

“On the morning of the day before the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin, Senator Ted Kennedy called the White House to inquire if it was appropriate to bring to the burial some earth from Arlington National Cemetery. The answer was essentially a shrug: Who knows? Unadvised, the senator carried a shopping bag onto the plane, filled with earth he had himself dug the afternoon before from the graves of his two murdered brothers. And at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, after waiting for the crowd and the cameras to disperse, he dropped to his hands and knees, and gently placed that earth on the grave of the murdered prime minister.

No spin, no photo op; a man unreasonably familiar with bidding farewell to slain heroes, a man in mourning, quietly making tangible a miserable connection.”

MJ Rosenberg has more.

Late Update: Another reader who was there at the graveside shares another recollection …

I can’t confirm that Senator Kennedy called the White House before flying to Jerusalem for Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral or that he brought a full sack of earth, but I was actually there at the moment. Very few people were allowed into the private burial at Mount Herzl after the multitudinous public funeral. There was a crush of people. At one point I found myself pressed against the massive back of a very large man. He managed to turn around and suddenly I found myself face to face with Ted Kennedy. I said it was an honor to meet him and that I had become a US citizen at the Kennedy building in Boston. He acted like a shy uncle: he pulled his son Patrick closer and asked “may I introduce my son?” Then he asked if he could ask me something. Struggling against the compression, he pulled a little sandwich baggie half-filled with dirt out of his pocket asked if it might offend sensibilities if he were to place some earth from his brothers’ graves on Rabin’s grave. He specified that he would not want to offend Leah Rabin. I suspect he may have other people as well.

Another memorable instant from the event was that Queen Nour of Jordan, who almost could not stop crying throughout, at one point found herself struggling with two very full fistfuls of used tissues. She was standing in the front row of mourners and though there were no cameras allowed, she started looking for some solution. Her husband stared resolutely ahead and didn’t budge. Peres was oblivious. No one reacted. Bill Clinton stood on the other side of her and when he realized her distress he simply grabbed the wet tissues and stuffed them into his suit pockets.

As the ceremony ended Hosni Mubarak seemed to be making a clean break for it but Clinton physically intervened and basically strong-armed Mubarak back to the small burial plot to pay his respects to Leah Rabin before leaving. This caused a considerable commotion among the Egyptian security guards.

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