Maj. Aubrey Eban was to give a speech in 1950, and Fabian Schonfeld, a young rabbi who had moved recently to New York City from his native England, made sure he was near a radio.
Mr. Eban, still known by his rank in the wartime British army and his original first name, was Israel’s wunderkind, at 35 ambassador to the United Nations and to the United States.
“His reputation preceded him,” said Rabbi Schonfeld, who that day would hear Mr. Eban speak for the first time. The rabbi was not disappointed. “He was very imposing, very impressing. He was mesmerizing.”
Abba Eban, as he eventually came to be known, adopting a Hebrew name, used his classical education and oratorical gifts on Israel’s behalf for six generations. He died Sunday in a Petach Tikvah hospital at 87 as the country’s elder statesman.
In failing health for several years, consigned to the edges of political life because of his increasingly dovish views, Mr. Eban received upon his death the recognition, if not popular affection, that had largely eluded him in the last years of his life.
Last year he was awarded the Israel Prize, but was too infirm to receive it in person.
Mr. Eban by his own admission was an anomaly in Israel, where he chose to settle after leaving army service following World War II. Born in South Africa and raised in England, he seemed by the standards of Israel a stuffy, always formal newcomer. “A brilliant stranger,” in the words of a Times of London obituary.