Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach, who passed away Monday at the age of 54, was known for his ability to be liked by all and connect between people, regardless of their political position.
This was perhaps best exemplified by the fact that MK Ilan Gilon of the leftist Meretz party was at Orbach’s bedside during his final hours. The two had forged a close friendship over the years, despite being on two complete opposite sides of the political map.
"Today I said goodbye to my rival-friend Uri Orbach," Gilon said on Monday. "I first met him almost twenty years ago when I filled in for Avri Gilad on the program Hamila Ha’acharona on Army Radio. I liked Uri from the very first moment, which was not particularly difficult because everyone fell in love with him, it was very easy to fall in love with Uri.”
Gilon described Orbach as witty, sharp, with good Jewish humor and a man without a malicious bone in his body. "He was kind, generous, wise and modest, the materials which make up nobility,” he said.
"Our relationship was a dialectic of complete opposites and issues on which we did not agree, we did not agree on anything ever,” continued the Meretz MK. “Our mutual blessing to each other was ‘may you have great success with a small party’, but in fact what we had in common was much greater than what set us apart.”
“If he is in another dimension now, reading these words, I want to tell him I loved him dearly and I learned a lot from him, and have only one ‘complaint’, and that is that he did not return to me the empty jar of horseradish I prepared for him on the eve of the Seder. I stand beside his wife Michal and his children as part of the family,” concluded Gilon.
Thousands were in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon for Orbach’s funeral, who passed away at the Shaare Tzedek Hospital after battling a long illness.
He was eulogized by a host of politicians, from left to right, including MK Shelly Yechimovich of Labor, who was born the same year, same month, same day, and at the same hour as Orbach and, like Gilon, formed a close friendship with him.
"My friend Uri Orbach died and it's sad and painful," she wrote on her Facebook page. "It is outrageous and unjust that the course of his life – the best of all, the most sensible and honest of all, the funniest of all – has been severed so young."
"We were born in the same year, same month, same day, and at the same time," she continued. "The relationship between us, even though we belong to two opposing political camps, was extraordinarily close despite political differences."
Yechimovich said that "complex issues which had sparked a debate, Orbach knew how to spice them up with humor, and broke through barriers and opened the door to a more pleasant and respectful discourse."
"His entry into the world of politics has been a model for other journalists," she added. "His love for Israel was manifested in his political interests, and he spoke clearly and fluently about them, about his desire to build a stronger and better society, a more tolerant one."