Yitzchak Navon, the President of Israel from 1978 to 1983, died on Saturday at the age of 94. His wife died in 1993, and he is survived by two children.
A former member of the underground Irgun headed by Menachem Begin and then of the HaGanah, Navon learned Arab literature and Islamic culture at Hebrew University and served as a diplomat before entering politics and holding the post of Education Minister.
He was born to a Jerusalem Sephardi family whose descendants include Spanish Jews who made Aliyah to Jerusalem after the Spanish Expulsion in 1492.
Navon was elected to the Knesset in 1965 as a member of Ben-Gurion’s Rafi party, which merged into the Labor faction.
The extremely popular president was unanimously elected to the office, with no opposition, and he was the first president to live in the current presidential residence in Jerusalem. He turned down the opportunity to run for a second term of office and then became the only president to return to politics.
Navon was more popular than Labor party chairman Shimon Peres, a leading member of Labor but rejected appeals to replace him.
He left politics in 1992 but returned to public life in 1996 to chair a committee that investigated the practice of discarding blood donated by Israelis of Ethiopian origin due to concerns about AIDS transmission
Navon also was an author and wrote two musicals based on Sephardic folklore
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.