Yitzchak Navon, who served as Israel’s fifth president from 1978 to 1983, passed away on Shabbos at the age of 94. As a devout member of the Labor Party, he was also known as one of the country’s most dominant Education Ministers after his presidency. He has also written several books and plays that focused on the heritage of Sephardic Jews, most notably Bustan Sephardi, which has been running non-stop since 1998 on HaBima Theater with much success.
As a Knesset member, he was head of the Committee for Foreign and Security Affairs and also the Deputy Knesset Speaker.
In 1978, Navon was elected president with no opponents. As president, he intervened in political issues in an unprecedented way by threatening to resign if there isn’t an inquiry commission to probe Israel’s role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre perpetrated by the Lebanese Falangists. His wife Ofira was active in promoting the welfare of Israeli children.
Navon on the left with Ariel Sharon.
Despite enjoying public admiration, Navon chose not to run for a second term as President in 1983 and instead returned to politics and joined the unity government as Minister of Education. He quit politics in 1992, prior to the general election that year which ended with Yitzhak Rabin’s victory.
Navon’s determination for his principles remained strong over the years. In 2012, he publicly expressed his support for then-President Shimon Peres, who had objected to an Israeli attack on Iran.
In 2008, 15 years after the death of his wife Ofira from cancer, Navon got married to his 10-year partner Miri Shafir. He has a son and a daughter.