Israel Gears Up for Shimon Peres’ Funeral

Shimon Peres (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

With foreign dignitaries numbering in the dozens headed to Israel for the funeral of Shimon Peres, it’s reportedly the biggest national event since the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin more than two decades ago.

Peres died Wednesday morning at age 93, following a major stroke two weeks ago.

The funeral of Israel’s ninth president and the last of its elder statesmen will take place Friday morning at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Cemetery. Peres will be buried next to slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the section reserved for the nation’s greatest leaders.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edestein each laid a wreath at Peres’ casket Thursday morning, which is lying in state at the Knesset from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Thousands are expected throughout the day and evening to pay their last respects to him.

Meanwhile, the security challenges are staggering. An estimated 95,000 passengers, among them 80 international leaders, will fly in and out of Ben Gurion International Airport, with more than 60 private planes and 30 commercial flights scheduled to arrive.

Besides the dozens of foreign dignitaries, police expect more than 100,000 to attend the funeral.

It will be up to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the Israel Police, and the Border Police to protect everyone.

Lior Akerman, former Shin Bet deputy head, called it “a security nightmare.”

“The Shin Bet is aware of all security arrangements, down to the exact number of body guards and who is carrying a weapon,” Akerman said, reported.

“Whoever wants to plan an attack has two full days to prepare and they know exactly when and where people will be arriving. It is a security nightmare,” he said.

“Terrorist organizations have an opportunity to catch a lot of officials at the same place and at the same time. The risk is clear and understandable, so the challenge here is to hermetically seal travel routes, the entrances and exits [to scheduled events], and to establish a secure perimeter so that no one can get close. The Shin Bet knows how to do it,” Akerman said.

As if echoing his words, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told The Associated Press Wednesday Palestinians are celebrating his death.

“Shimon Peres was the last remaining Israeli official who founded the occupation and his death is the end of a phase in the history of this occupation and the beginning of a new phase of weakness,” Zuhri said.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who arrived early Thursday, will take part in a ceremony at the Knesset later in the day, as will former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

This article originally appeared on CBN News, September 29, 2016, and reposted with permission.