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Maxwell buried on Mount of Olives

By
BEN LYNFIELD

JERUSALEM -- British press baron Robert Maxwell, eulogized as a 'man of courage, vision and daring enterprise,' was laid to rest Sunday on the Mount of Olives, leaving behind questions about his mysterious death and the future of his publishing empire.

Before the burial, hundreds of people filed past Maxwell's body, which, according to Jewish law, was shrouded and covered with a tallit, the traditional prayer shawl. Beside the body was a massive zinc-lined oak casket in which he was transported to Israel.

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The funeral took place at Jerusalem's Binyanei Ha'umah convention center, the Hall of the Nation, and mourners included Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, President Chaim Herzog, Soviet activist Natan Sharansky, much of the Israel government and editors of his newspapers.

Maxwell's widow, Elizabeth, his three sons and three of his four daughters were also present at the hilly ancient cemetery overlooking Jerusalem's walled Old City, where the publishing magnate wished to be buried. A fourth daughter, who is pregnant, was not able to make the trip.'

'We have gathered to lament the tragic and untimely passing of a mighty man, a man of courage, vision and daring enterprise, a man cast in a heroic mold,' Herzog said in his eulogy.

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'It is right and proper that he be here at last among us and as he is interred in the holy soil of his ancestors and we say farewell to him, I would have no doubt but that his last wish would have been that those in his family will carry the torch that he bore and continue to maintain the tradition of involvement in Israel,' Herzog said.

Maxwell's eldest son Philip also eulogized his father, saying, 'In battle he was a hero, in Fleet Street a giant, he climbed a hundred mountains and planned to climb a thousand more.

'He never forgot where he came from or the indignities or the discrimination he suffered,' Philip Maxwell said.

Later at the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, Maxwell's body was interred and rabbies recited the memorial prayer, 'God is Merciful.' About 150 people stood around the grave as the sun set over the Old City, including opposition Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, a former prime minister and friend of Maxwell's.

'He was a man who looked life in the eye and extracted the utmost from it,' Peres said in a short speech at the gravesite.

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Maxwell was a Czechoslovak-born Jew, who became a leading supporter of Israel late in life. Maxwell's interest in Israel led him to take over its second-leading newspaper, Ma'ariv, and to invest in publishing, computer and pharmaceutical firms.

In his recent book, 'The Samson Option,' investigative reporter Seymour Hersh said Maxwell was also connected to the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, a charge Maxwell vehemently denied.

The European, a weekly newspaper Maxwell founded in 1990, said Friday the tycoon planned to retire to West Jerusalem and was in the process of purchasing a home overlooking the Old City.

The 68-year-old publisher's body was found Tuesday in the waters off the Canary Islands after a sudden, mysterious death at sea. Maxwell had been aboard his 170-foot yacht, Lady Ghislaine, but there were no witnesses when he apparently fell off the craft into the sea.

His body was flown from Las Palmas to Jerusalem on Friday, accompanied by his widow Elizabeth and eldest son Philip.

The Maxwell family has expressed doubt over a preliminary autopsy report that attributed the publisher's death to heart and lung failure. Spanish investigators said they found nothing to indicate that Maxwell met with foul play.

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Maxwell's publishing empire, which included the Daily Mirror in London, the New York Daily News and MacMillan Publishing Co., has been widely reported to have been on the verge of collapse at the time of his death, saddled by hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

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