In what South African Jewish leaders increasingly see as a farce, Israel will not send any major leader to Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
It emerged that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be attending due to the cost of the journey, and President Shimon Peres has bowed out over concerns about his health.
Zev Krengel, the president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, told Army Radio that the absence was a “missed opportunity”, adding: “It’s a sad day not just for Israel but for world Jewry.”
Rabbi Avrohom Vigler from Johannesburg’s Orange Grove Hebrew Congregation told Times of Israel that a visit by the prime minister would have “shown a willingness” on Israel’s part to “improve relations” with the country.
The head of Israel’s delegation is Yuli Edelstein, a former Minister of Immigrant Absorption and now Speaker of the Knesset.
Mr Edelstein also stressed his suitability for the role given his previous experience as a “prisoner of conscience” in the former Soviet Union and his “privilege of meeting Mandela as a minister in 1996”.
Other members of the official Israeli delegation will include member of Knesset Pnina Tamnu-Shata, the first female Ethiopian MK from the Yesh Atid party, MKs Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), Gila Gamliel (Likud Beytenu) and Hilik Bar (Labour).