It was one widow calling to console another. An ocean separated them, but history had linked them.
After the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin in 1995, Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., wrote a letter to Rabinís widow, Leah, in which she expressed her condolences and pointed out that both of their husbands had fought for peace and had been killed by their own people: King by an American and Rabin by an Israeli.
"She wrote that we share the same fate," recalled Arye Mekel, who was then Israelís consul general in Atlanta and who carried the note from King to Rabin. Mekel said Rabin later told him that of the thousands of letters she received, "that one meant more to her because of the spiritual bond" the two women had.
King died Tuesday at the age of 78 after a long illness.
"Every time an Israeli dignitary came to Atlanta, I took him to see Coretta Scott King, including Shimon Peres," said Mekel, now Israel’s consul general in New York. King came to New York in 1995 on what would have been her husband’s 65th birthday to meet with Jewish leaders at the offices of the World Jewish Congress, recalled Rabbi Marc Schneier, who organized the visit.
At the event, she recalled her husband’s words in condemning anti-Semitism and said that the movie "Schindler’s List" should be required viewing for all high school students. "She was a champion of her husband’s legacy in strengthening black-Jewish relations, in fighting for the civil rights of Jews and in supporting the concerns and interests of the Jewish community and the State of Israel in particular," said Rabbi Schneier, author of the book, "Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Jewish Community."