Nechama Rivlin (born 5 June 1945) is the First Lady of Israel. She is married to the current President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin.
Early life and education
Rivlin was born on moshav Herut that her parents, Mendi and Drora Kayla Shulman, helped to establish. Her mother, who had immigrated from the Ukraine, was widowed when Rivlin was a young girl. Rivlin attended local schools and graduated from the Ruppin Regional High School. Medical issues prevented her from starting military service, and in 1964, she enrolled at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At graduation, she received a BSc in Botany and Zoology, along with a Teaching Diploma. Later in life, she studied the History of Art.
Rivlin became a researcher at Hebrew University in 1967. Her initial role was in the Department of Zoology of the Hebrew University, and she later worked in the Department of Ecology, as well as in the Department of Genetics. Rivlin retired in 2007, but in addition to regular employment, she has engaged in a variety of volunteer assignments, including in politics and the Jerusalem City Guard.
In her role as Israel's First Lady, she has concentrated on areas she is most familiar with through her academic work and family. One area of focus is nature and the environment. She has created a community garden, and has begun a new recycling system. She has also been a vocal supporter of women and children. In her first major activity as First Lady, she welcomed 200 Akim activists to the President's Residence to promote support for intellectually challenged children. Sharing a message of peace and tolerance, she hosted students and teachers from the Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel at the President's Residence following an arson attack at their school. Rivlin has said violence against children is a great problem throughout society, and that Israel should work to investigate and address child abuse. "We must break this conspiracy of silence once and for all", she said.
In March 2016, she hosted a group of women who had publicly shared their experiences with sexual assault and domestic abuse. Rivlin told them that by telling their stories, they would help others who face difficult issues. Rivlin has joined her husband in international travels, including a visit to the White House with U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for the December 2015 Hannukah celebration. She and her husband lit a menorah made in Israel by designer, Ze'ev Raban. Beginning in November 2015, the First Lady was assigned a security detail for when she is outside the official residence on her own. President Rivlin has been a "target of right-wing verbal attacks, with criticism against him often crossing the line into hate speech", according to The Times of Israel. The President told Army Radio: "Neither my wife nor I are personally afraid – there is no fear in our hearts, but we are concerned and worry for Israeli democracy."
In 1970, Rivlin met Reuven Rivlin at a party. They married in 1971, a year after their meeting. It was his second marriage and he had a son from his first marriage. It was her first marriage. The couple had three children, Rivka, Anat, and Ran. The family resided in Yefeh Nof. After her retirement in 2007, she became a film buff, watched theatre, and developed an interest in gardening and the environment. Later in life, she studied the history of art.
Rivlin suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, an interstitial lung disease. She was regularly seen in public with a portable oxygen tank. On 11 March 2019, Rivlin received a lung transplant thanks to a lung coming from 19 year old Yair Yehezkel Chalabli's body, who died on a freediving accident. She died on 4 June, one day shy of her 74th birthday, at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva of complications following the transplant. She is survived by her sister Vered.
Nechama Rivlin was laid in state at Jerusalem Theatre on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. Speakers at her funeral included Rabbi Binyamin Lau and author Haim Be'er, as well as her husband, President Rivlin and children. Singers Rona Kenan and Alon Eder [Wikidata] also performed at the funeral. Rivlin was buried at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem later that day.