Yitzhak Navon

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Yitzhak Navon
Yitzhak Navon 1.jpg
5th President of Israel
In office
24 May 1978 – 5 May 1983
Prime Minister Menachem Begin
Preceded by Ephraim Katzir
Succeeded by Chaim Herzog
Personal details
Born (1921-04-09) 9 April 1921 (age 94)
Jerusalem, British Mandate of Palestine
Nationality Israeli
Political party Alignment
Spouse(s) Ofira Resnikov
Children 2
Religion Judaism
Yitzhak Navon (left) and his brother Victor in Jerusalem, 1929

Yitzhak Navon (Hebrew: יצחק נבון, born 9 April 1921) is an Israeli politician, diplomat, and author. He served as the fifth President of Israel between 1978 and 1983 as a member of the center-left Alignment party. He was the first Israeli president to be born in Jerusalem, then within the British Mandate for Palestine, while all previous presidents were born in and made aliyah from the Russian Empire.

Personal life[edit]

Born in Jerusalem, Navon is a descendant of a Sephardi family of rabbis. On his father's side, he is descended from Spanish Jews who settled in Turkey after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. The family (Baruch Mizrahi family or Al Mashraki) moved to Jerusalem in 1670. On his mother's side, he is descended from the renowned Moroccan-Jewish kabbalist Chaim ibn Attar, who emigrated to Palestine and settled in Jerusalem in mid-1742.

Navon studied Hebrew literature and Islamic studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After serving in the Haganah in Jerusalem, he was sent by the Israeli foreign service to Uruguay and Argentina. Navon's wife Ofira, many years his junior, died of cancer in 1993. They had two children: Naama and Erez.

Political career[edit]

In 1951, Navon became the political secretary of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. The following year he was appointed Ben-Gurion's bureau chief. He remained in this position under Prime Minister Moshe Sharett.

In 1963, he became a department head at the Ministry of Education and Culture. Two years later, Navon was elected to the Knesset as a member of Ben-Gurion's Rafi, which merged into the Israeli Labor Party (part of the Alignment) in 1968. Navon served as deputy speaker of the Knesset and chairman of the Knesset Committee on Foreign and Defense Affairs.


On 19 April 1978, Navon was elected by the Knesset to serve as the fifth President of Israel. There was no other candidates and Navon received 86 votes in the 120-member Knesset with 23 members casting blank votes. He assumed office on 29 May 1978 and was the first president with small children to move into Beit HaNassi, the presidential residence in Jerusalem. His wife, Ofira, was active in promoting the welfare of Israeli children.

Although the Israeli presidency is a ceremonial office, Navon was an outspoken advocate of a judicial commission of inquiry to probe Israel's role in the Sabra and Shatila massacre perpetrated by Lebanese Falangists in 1982.

In 1983, Navon turned down the opportunity to run for a second term of office. Instead he returned to politics, the only Israeli ex-president to do so. When the polls showed that Navon was more popular than Labor chairman Shimon Peres, Peres was pressured to step aside and allow Navon to take over the party leadership. Navon's fluency in the Arabic language made him especially popular among Arab and Mizrahi voters. But Navon did not accept the chairmanship. In 1984, he was elected to the Knesset and served as minister of education and culture from 1984 to 1990. He remained in the Knesset until 1992, after which he left politics.

In 1996 Navon briefly emerged from retirement to chair a Commission of Inquiry on Israeli medical authorities' controversial practice of discarding blood donated by Israelis of Ethiopian origin due to concerns about AIDS transmission.[1]

Literary output[edit]

Navon wrote two musicals based on Sephardic folklore: Sephardic Romancero (1968) and Bustan Sephardi ("Spanish Garden" 1970), which were successfully performed at Habimah, Israel's national theater in Tel Aviv. He is also the author of "The Six Days and the Seven Gates" (1979), a modern legend of the reunification of Jerusalem, first published in Hebrew by "Shikmonah" Publishing Company, later translated into English.


External links[edit]