Nechama Rivlin, Wife of Israel’s President, Dies at 73

First Lady Melania Trump and Israeli President's wife Nehama speak as they walk at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

TEL AVIV – Nechama Rivlin, the wife of President Reuven Rivlin, died Tuesday morning a day before her 74th birthday. 

According to a statement from the President’s Residence, she died at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, where she was being treated following complications from a lung transplant three months ago. Nechama Rivlin had suffered from pulmonary fibrosis since 2007.

“The Rivlin family wishes to thank citizens of Israel and the heads of the communities who have continued to ask after Nechama’s health, to send letters and wonderful children’s drawings to the hospital and to Beit HaNasi [President’s Residence], and to pray for her every day, every hour,” the statement said.

“Their love and concern gave the president and all members of the family strength and support that cannot be described in words.”

President Rivlin posted a picture of his wife on his Facebook page along with the words “My Nechama.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his condolences.

“Together with all the citizens of Israel, my wife Sara and I express deep sorrow over the passing of Nechama Rivlin, the wife of President Reuven Rivlin,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

“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,” he added.

Nechama Rivlin was born in 1945 in Moshav Herut in the Sharon region.

She studied natural sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and earned a BSc in zoology and botany. She continued working at the university until her retirement in 2007.

Nechama married Reuven Rivlin in 1971 and settled in Jerusalem, raising three children — Rivi, Anat and Ran. She left seven grandchildren.

When Nechama moved to the President’s Residence, she focused on art activities for children with special needs, the environment and nature.

She was a lover of the arts and literature and founded the President’s Award for Hebrew Poetry.

She was described by friends and politicians as an extremely modest woman who shunned the spotlight. She often appeared at gatherings with no security, only an oxygen tank that accompanied her in recent years.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein offered his condolences. “She was a special person, her bright and shining countenance touched everyone she encountered. She will be greatly missed,” he said in a statement.

Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau described Nechama Rivlin a “woman of valor” who for many years “stood by her husband as he served the public with endless devotion and humility.”

The IDF called her a “mother to us all.”

Rivlin will be buried Wednesday at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

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