Sunday, November 8, 2015

Yitzhak Navon, Israel's Fifth President 1921-2015


Yitzhak Navon, who was president of Israel between 1978 and 1983, passed away on Saturday and was buried in Jerusalem today. He had a long and varied career, starting as a junior diplomat in Montevideo, in Israel's first representation in Latin America, and later in Argentina. He served as the secretary of Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, and then as the secretary of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
Yitzhak Navon with Israel's minister to Uruguay, Yaacov Zur,  and Mrs. Zur in Montevideo, October 1948.Photograph:  Hugo Mendelsohn, Goverment Press Office 














Yitzhak Navon and David Ben-Gurion reading the Bible, April 1956.
Photograph: Government Press Office

In 1963 Navon, then head of the Culture Unit in the Ministry of Education, headed the campaign to eradicate adult illiteracy in Israel, about which we wrote here.

Afterwards he followed Ben-Gurion into the Rafi party which later merged with the Labour Alignment. He became a Knesset member in 1965 and later served as deputy speaker of the Knesset. During his term as president the peace treaty with Egypt was signed, and he made an official visit to Egypt. During his stay, President Navon visited among other places, Sadat's birthplace at the village of Mit Abul Kum. In Cairo, at his request he addressed the members of the ruling National Democratic Party, as President Sadat had addressed the Knesset in Jerusalem.


President Navon and President Sadat in Mit Abul Kom, 29/10/1980
Photograph:Yaacov Saar, Government Press Office, 

 In his speech he expressed disappointment at the pace of the normalization process. "In times of war, we need a Supreme Command for War . In times of peace, we need a Supreme Command for Peace", to be made up of writers, teachers, scientists and psychologists to deepen and implant the hold of peace among the peoples of the two nations. President Navon  also spoke of the shared roots and aspirations of Jews and Muslims and of his grandfather who left Morocco for the Holy Land after a dream of the prophet Elijah, 

Navon ,who grew up in a distinguished Sepahrdi family in Jerusalem, spoke fluent Arabic which he had learned from his neighbours. He also wrote two popular musical plays in Ladino. He refused to serve a second term as president and returned to politics, serving as minister of education between 1984 and 1990.


Letter from a Jewish child in Australia to President Navon
Israel State Archives

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