Nechama Rivlin, Israel’s First Lady, Dies at 73
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Nechama Rivlin, Israel’s First Lady, Dies at 73

The wife of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Nechama, died on the eve of her 74th birthday June 4.

Moshe Shai/FLASH90 // Nechama Rivlin, wife of President Reuven Rivlin, on June 16, 2016.
Moshe Shai/FLASH90 // Nechama Rivlin, wife of President Reuven Rivlin, on June 16, 2016.

The wife of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Nechama, died on the eve of her 74th birthday June 4, according to a statement from the president’s residence.

She was at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva at the time, undergoing treatment after suffering a relapse during recovery from a lung transplant a few months earlier.

“Three months after a lung transplant, Nechama Rivlin died this morning,” the hospital said in a statement. “To our regret, the medical efforts to stabilize her over time, during the complicated rehabilitation period after the transplant, did not succeed.”

She suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, an accumulation of scar tissue in the lungs, causing breathing issues. The transplant was deemed successful on March 12, but doctors warned that the road to recovery was long and arduous.

“I’m happy Nechama is no longer suffering. She really deserves the love she is getting now and the recognition of her service and work,” Israel’s Channel 12 news quoted Rivlin telling friends following his wife’s death.

Support and condolences flowed in from many sources, both inside Israel’s borders and internationally. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his condolences in a brief statement.

“Along with all the citizens of Israel, my wife Sara and I feel deep sorrow at the death of the president’s wife, Nechama Rivlin,” Netanyahu said. “We all prayed for her recovery during the recent period during which she fought bravely and intensely for her life. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the president and to all his family.”

Born in 1945 in Moshav Herut, in the region north of Tel Aviv, Nechama and Reuven were married in 1971. She worked at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem until 2007, when she retired, and her lung condition was discovered.

“When Nechama moved to the president’s residence, she chose to focus on art, activities for children with special needs, the environment and nature, through compassion and love of people,” the president’s residence said.

On behalf of the legislature, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein offered his condolences as well.

“She was a special person, her bright and shining countenance touched everyone she encountered. She will be greatly missed,” he said.

President Donald Trump also offered his thoughts in a tweet on June 5, saying “Melania and I send our deepest condolences to President Reuven Rivlin and the entire State of Israel upon the passing of Mrs. Nechama Rivlin.”

“Mrs. Rivlin represented her beloved country with grace and stature,” he added. “We will miss her along with all those who knew her.”

Trump, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier each called Rivlin’s office to express their condolences, according to Channel 12, but the Israeli president reportedly only took calls from a few close friends.

Her coffin was displayed in the Jerusalem Theatre from 2 to 5 p.m. June 5, and, at the request of the Rivlin family, the public was invited to pay their respects as well as attend her funeral.

Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90 // The coffin of Nechama Rivlin lies in state at the Jerusalem Theatre on June 5.

Reuven Rivlin, accompanied by his grandson and other family, spoke with a few well-wishers who came to pay their respects to his late wife, saying to one, “You all like me because of Nechama — and rightly so.”

Her funeral took place later that day at Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem. Delivering her eulogy, Rivlin reminded everyone in attendance of the date.

“My Nechama, our mother. I got up this morning — you know that I didn’t manage to sleep — I looked at the date that is so familiar — June 5. Happy birthday, my dear. Sad birthday,” the president said.

He added that when he had visited her in the hospital a few weeks earlier, she had asked to return home.

“Today, Nechama, you came home,” he said.

Compiled by AJT staff

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