Gouri, Israeli poet-warrior and national icon, dies at 94

Israeli poet, author, and retired IDF officer Haim Gouri dies at 94.

Tags: Poet Funeral

Gouri's coffin at the Jerusalem Theater on Thursday morning
Gouri's coffin at the Jerusalem Theater on Thursday morning
Hezki Baruch

Haim Gouri, the Israeli poet who fought with an elite combat unit, covered the trial of Adolf Eichmann and became a national icon, died Wednesday aged 94, his family said.

Gouri published more than 20 books, with his poetry including reflections on his time as part of the elite Palmach combat unit predating Israel's founding.

He fought in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 surrounding Israel's creation the same year and served as a reserve officer in the Six-Day War of 1967.

After the Holocaust, he was sent to Europe to help Jewish refugees migrate into what was then British mandatory Palestine.

A number of his poems were set to music and became popular songs in Israel.

His coverage of the trial of Nazi war criminal Eichmann later became a book, "Facing the Glass Booth."

Born in Tel Aviv in 1923, Gouri came from a politically engaged family, with his father part of the Mapai party of Israeli founding father and prime minister David Ben-Gurion. In July 1967, Gouri helped found the Movement for Greater Israel, together with writers Shai Agnon, Nathan Alterman, and others.

Gouri was also a documentary filmmaker, and his film on the Holocaust "The 81st Blow" was nominated for an Oscar. He was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize in 1988 among a list of others.

In 2011, France recognized him as a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, with Gouri having translated the work of French poets into Hebrew and studied at the Sorbonne.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin mourned the death of a "national poet, a man who was both a fighter and an intellectual."

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said "his poems were part of Israel's heritage."

Gouri, who was close to former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, called the Palestinian Authority terrorists' suicide bombings and other forms of violence in the Second Intifada "abominable."

He also acknowledged the suffering of then-Jordanian Arabs in 1948, when hundreds of thousands fled or were forced from their homes, but said the Palestinian Authority and Arab leadership had chosen the path of war.

Gouri's funeral is currently being held in Jerusalem, where a number of streets are blocked for the funeral procession until early afternoon.