Feb 2, 1915, was the birthday of Abba Eban, one of Israel’s greatest diplomats. During the course of his career, he served as Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister, Education Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations. He was also Vice President of the United Nations General Assembly and President of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

An outstanding orator, Eban is perhaps best known for his fierce defense of Israel in the UN after the Six-Day War. His comment that Arabs “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, made after the Geneva peace talks in December 1973, is often quoted.

Henry Kissinger said about him, “I have never encountered anyone who matched his command of the English language. Sentences poured forth in mellifluous constructions complicated enough to test the listener’s intelligence and simultaneously leave him transfixed by the speaker’s virtuosity.”

After he retired from political life, he was a prolific author and teacher. Two of his best-known works were award-winning documentaries he narrated. You can watch them in their entireties: Israel: A Nation is Born and Heritage: Civilization and the Jews.

Eban died on 17 November 2002. He is seen in the picture above with David Ben-Gurion and U.S. President Harry Truman in 1951.

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