(June 5, 2019 / JNS) Israel’s First Lady Nechama Rivlin was laid to rest on Wednesday at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery after a solemn ceremony where she was praised by her husband, President Reuven Rivlin, as a devoted mother, grandmother and Zionist.
Rivlin began his remarks praising her service to Israel and by noting that June 5 would have been her 74th birthday.
“You never wanted to be in the limelight, but you understood that as the president’s wife you had a role to fill,” he said. “You chose to support children with special needs, to stand alongside women without being a demonstrative feminist.”
“The entire country loves you,” said her husband.
“To you, Nechama, my wife, to you Nechama, my love, I’m having a hard time accepting that these are my parting words … Thank you for being with me … thank you for allowing me to be the husband of the First Lady of Israel,” said Rivlin.
Prior to the funeral service, Nechama Rivlin’s coffin was placed at the Jerusalem Theater, where the Israeli public was encouraged to visit and pay their respects.
The funeral service at Mount Herzl was conducted by Rabbi Benny Lau, who knew the Rivlins well through monthly Torah study at the President’s Residence.
A full-fledged sabra, she was born on June 5, 1945, at moshav Herut, where her parents, Mendi and Drora Kayla Shulman, helped establish the community. Rivlin earned a degree in botany and zoology, along with a teaching diploma, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
She became a researcher at Hebrew University in 1967. Her initial role was in the Department of Zoology; she later worked in the Department of Ecology, as well as in the Department of Genetics. She wed Reuven Rivlin in 1971.
While she retired in 2007, her husband was elected president of Israel in June of 2014. Married for nearly 50 years, they have three children, Rivka, Anat and Ran, and seven grandchildren.
Rivlin suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, an interstitial lung disease, and was regularly seen in public with a portable oxygen tank. She underwent a lung transplant in March, which managed to sustain her life by several months.