Fifth President of Israel Yitzchak Navon Dead at Age 94

November 7, 2015

< 1 min read

Yitzchak Navon, Israel’s fifth president, died Friday night at the age of 94. Navon was an integral part of Israel’s modern history, heading the Arab division of the Haganah, the precursor to the present-day IDF. He served as David Ben Gurion’s secretary and close adviser from 1951 until 1963, when he became deputy prime minister and a department head at the Ministry of Education and Culture in 1984.

Navon served as a member of Knesset four separate times, representing the Rafi party, and later as a prominent member of its modern incarnation, the Labor Party.

Elected president in 1978 despite being a member of the opposition, he was the first Israeli president to visit Egypt, addressing the Egyptian parliament in fluent Arabic. Despite the position being mostly ceremonial, he played an active role in investigating the Falangist massacres of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatilla in Lebanon in 1982, threatening to resign if the investigation was not thoroughly carried out.

He retired from politics in 1992.

The first Israeli president born in Jerusalem, he was descended on his father’s side from Spanish Jews who moved to Turkey after the Inquisition in 1492. His father’s family moved to Jerusalem in 1670. On his mother’s side, he was descended from prominent Sephardi rabbis, notably the Morrocan Kabbalist Chaim ibn Attar,  who immigrated to Jerusalem in 1742.

Navon wrote two musicals based on Sephardi folklore and a book on the Six Day War which was translated into English under the title, “The Six Days and the Seven Gates”.

Navon’s first wife passed away in 1993, and he later married Miri Shafir. They had two children together, Naama and Erez.

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