אTimeline: Major events in Yitzhak Navon’s life

א.1 | Early life and education

The Navon family in the 1920s. Right to left, Yitzhak Navon’s sister, Mazal, his father, Yosef, his mother, Miriam, Yitzhak, leaning on his father’s knee, and his brother Victor. Photograph: Yitzhak Navon Archive, The Association for the Commemoration of the Fifth President Yitzhak Navon

An Ottoman laisser passer held by Navon’s grandfather, Ya’acov Ben-Attar, late 19th century. Yitzhak Navon Archive, The Association for the Commemoration of the Fifth President Yitzhak Navon

9 April 1921 Yitzhak Navon is born in Jerusalem. His father, Yosef, belongs to the Navon family, Sephardic Jews who moved to Turkey after the expulsion from Spain and have lived in Jerusalem for 300 years. His mother, Miriam Ben-Attar, was born in Morocco to a family of distinguished rabbis

1924  The Navon family moves from Jaffa Road to the Ohel Moshe neighbourhood in Nahlaot

A narrow alley in Nahlaot today. Photograph: Wikimedia

1927–1934 Yitzhak Navon attends a religious school, “Doresh Zion”

1932 The Navon family moves to the Sheikh Bader neighbourhood near the western entrance to Jerusalem

1934–1935 Navon continues his studies at the Tachkemoni modern religious school

1936 The Navon family moves to Mekor Baruch on the outbreak of the Arab Revolt

1937 Navon joins the IZL underground movement

1936–1939 Studies at the modern Beit HaKerem school attached to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

1939–1943 Studies Islamic culture, Arabic culture and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

1943 Becomes a teacher of Arabic at the Beit HaKerem school

Yitzhak Navon and his students at the Beit HaKerem school, early 1940s. Photograph: Yitzhak Navon Archive, The Association for the Commemoration of the Fifth President Yitzhak Navon


1944 Publishes a prize winning  short story in the weekly magazine of the Kol Israel radio station

Yitzhak Navon studying by lamplight. Photograph: Yitzhak Navon Archive, The Association for the Commemoration of the Fifth President Yitzhak Navon

א.2 | Service in the Haganah, the IDF and the diplomatic corps

August 1946 Joins the intelligence services of the Haganah and heads the Arab department in the Jerusalem area during the War of Independence

September 1948 Joins the Middle Eastern Department of the Foreign Ministry

1949 Second secretary at the Israeli representation in Uruguay and Argentina

Yizhak Navon and friends riding horses during his stay in Uruguay. Photograph: GPO

First page of a lecture in Spanish by Navon on the revival of the Hebrew language, given in Uruguay. Photograph: Yitzhak Navon Archive, The Association for the Commemoration of the Fifth President Yitzhak Navon


1951 Private secretary of Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett

A letter from Moshe Sharett’s personal correspondence file, 1951. ISA MFA2379/19

א.3 | At Ben-Gurion's side

Conversation between Ben-Gurion and his secretary, Yitzhak Navon, at the Prime Minister’s Bureau in Jerusalem, 1 March 1952. Photograph: GPO

1952–1953 Private secretary of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion

1954–1955 Ben-Gurion resigns and goes to live in Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev. Navon graduates from the Hebrew University

1955–1963 Ben-Gurion returns to power. Navon serves as his bureau chief.

In 1957 Navon applied for Henry Kissinger’s prestigious international seminar at Harvard. In the end, Yigal Allon, then an aspiring politician, was preferred. See Navon’s personal file as Ben-Gurion’s secretary, ISA, G 5357/31

May-June 1961 Accompanies Ben-Gurion on a visit to the US, Canada, Britain and France

25 June 1963 Marries Ofira Erez, an educational psychologist who worked with deaf children

Yitzhak and Ofira Navon on their wedding day. Photograph: David Harris, GPO

א.4 | Fighting illiteracy, election to the Knesset and literary activity

A pamplet about Israel’s literacy programme presented at an international conference in Teheran in 1965. Most of the students were women. ISA, Ministry of Education, G5606/5

1963-1964 On Ben-Gurion’s retirement, Navon joins the Education Ministry and heads a major campaign to combat adult illiteracy

1965 Founds the Neot Kedumim company together with Kaddish Luz, the speaker of the Knesset, and Noga Reuveni, the pioneer of nature preservation in Israel, in order to set up a Biblical nature park

1965 Elected to the Knesset as a representative of Ben-Gurion’s Rafi party and becomes deputy speaker

1967 Following the Six Day War, visits Greece and the Far East to put Israel’s case

1967 Publishes a dramatized fable about the war, “Six Days and Seven Gates”

1968 Rafi, the Ahdut HaAvoda party and Mapai join together to form the Labour Party

1969 Writes the text for a popular production of Sephardi folksongs and liturgical works, “Romancero Sepharadi”

1970 Writes the play “Bustan Sepharadi”

21 May 1971 Publishes a poem in memory of the fallen in the War of Attrition

1972 His bid to be elected speaker of the Knesset is unsuccessful

1972 Elected as chairman of the Zionist Actions Committee at the 28th Zionist Congress

1973 His bid to become the Labour Party’s candidate for president is unsuccessful; Prime Minister Golda Meir prefers Ephraim Katzir

A meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee. At the head of the table, left to right, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the chairman, Yitzhak Navon, and Attorney-General Aharon Barak. Courtesy of the IDF and Defence Establishment Archive

1975–1977 Serves as the chairman of the prestigious Knesset Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee

19 April 1978 Although representing the Labour opposition, Navon is unanimously elected president at the end of Katzir’s term of office

א.5 | A people's president

For the first time, a family with young children would move into the President’s Residence. Yitzhak and Ofira Navon with their  daughter Naama and their son Erez, 5 May 1978. Photograph: Ya’acov Sa’ar, GPO

29 May 1978 Navon is sworn in as president

31 May–1 June 1978 Visits settlements on the border with Lebanon

4–6 March 1979 Visits a deprived neighbourhood in Tel Aviv, Shkhunat Hatikva

Navon visits the market in the Hatikva neighbourhood, 3 April 1979. Photograph: Ya’acov Sa’ar, GPO


March 1979 Meets US President Jimmy Carter during Carter’s dramatic visit to Egypt and Israel to wrap up the peace treaty

The first page of  a translation of Navon’s speech to the Arab people. ISA, File PRES 345/6

25 May 1979 Receives President Anwar Sadat of Egypt on his visit to Beer Sheva following the treaty

August 1979 Ofira Navon is diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoes an operation

4–6 September 1979 Yitzhak and Ofira Navon host a visit to Haifa by President Sadat and his wife Jehan

21–22 February 1980 Navon visits Dimona and meets with employees of the Kitan factory and the Indian Jewish community

26–30 October 1980 Visit to Egypt. Navon meets with President Sadat and Vice-President Hosni Mubarak and gives a speech to the ruling party

28 July 1981 Visit to the settlement of Yamit and meeting with settlers who are to be evacuated as a result of the peace treaty with Egypt

17 November 1981 Condolence visit to Egypt following the assassination of President Sadat

3 March 1982 Visit of French President François Mitterand to Israel

22 March 1982 Visit to the Arab town of Shfar’am

28 March 1982 Visit to the settlers of Yamit on the eve of the evacuation

9 June 1982 Visit to the Northern Command and towns and villages damaged by bombardment during Operation Peace for Galilee (the First Lebanese War)

20 September 1982 In a TV broadcast, calls on Prime Minister Menachem Begin to set up a judicial commission of enquiry following the massacre in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut

4–5 January 1983 Visits the USA and meets with President Ronald Reagan, Vice President George H.W. Bush and other political figures and Jewish leaders

Record of Navon’s talk with President Reagan, made by the minister in Washington, Benjamin Netanyahu. At a time of tension between Prime Minister Menachem Begin and the US, Navon served as a useful channel for diplomatic messages. ISA, Prime Minister Begin-US file, A4343/3

31 January 1983 Navon announces his decision not to seek a second term as president

22 March 1983 Chaim Herzog, the opposition candidate, is elected president to succeed Navon

5 May 1983 Herzog is sworn in as president

Part of a farewell interview in the Jerusalem Post magazine, 29 April 1983

א.6 | Return to politics and the Ministry of Education

13 August 1984 Navon is elected to the 11th Knesset

13 September 1984 Serves as deputy prime minister and minister of education and culture in the National Unity government of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir

Adopts programmes to improve the education of disadvantaged groups and to expand scientific and technological education, despite severe budget cuts

15 January 1985 Visits schools where the children of immigrants from Ethiopia who arrived by airlift in “Operation Moses ” are being educated

Yitzhak Navon visits a kindergarten class in Pardes Hanna, 15 January 1985. Photograph: Nati Harnik, GPO.

1985 Votes in Cabinet against the “Jibril deal” – the exchange of imprisoned terrorists for Israeli soldiers

7 August 1987 Censorship on plays is abolished

1987 With the improvement in the economic situation, Navon carries out some of his plans to encourage science and technical education and to help underprivileged children

End of September-early October 1987 Navon visits the US and Venezuela to encourage Jewish education

April 1988 Navon visits Warsaw and the sites of the death camps in Poland

Yitzhak Navon visits a Nazi death camp in Poland, 1988. As relations with the eastern bloc began to improve, Navon encouraged school visits to Poland. Yitzhak Navon Archive, The Association for the Commemoration of the Fifth President Yitzhak Navon

1 July 1988 Helps to enact the Special Education Law, providing for the right of special needs children to be educated

22 December 1988 Navon is reelected to the Knesset and serves in the National Unity government headed by Shamir

13 March 1990 Peres is dismissed by Shamir following his unsuccessful attempt to depose the prime minister and to form a Labour government. Navon and the rest of the Labour ministers resign

א.7 | Public life and final years

1990 Navon heads the Public Council for the Commemoration of Expulsion of the Jews from Spain and helps to plan events to mark the 500th anniversary of the expulsion in 1992

1992 Presents an Israel TV series on the Jewish heritage in Spain

1992 Navon decides not to stand for re-election to the Knesset. He continues to be active in public service, heading arts institutions, encouraging the preservation of the Sephardi heritage and serving as the chairman of the Neot Kedumim nature reserve until his death

The Neot Kedumim reserve near Modi’in, opened in 1984, is a popular picnic site which also educates the public about nature and the agriculture of the Bible. Here basket weaving is being demonstrated. Photograph: Moshe Milner, GPO


23 August 1993 Ofira Navon dies of cancer

1996 Navon heads a public commission of enquiry into the rejection of blood donated by Ethiopian Jews

2008 Marries Miri Shafir

Yitzhak Navon and Miri Shafir at a ceremony where Navon recived a medal from King Juan Carlos of Spain. Yitzhak Navon Archive, The Association for the Commemoration of the Fifth President Yitzhak Navon

6 November 2015 Death of Yitzhak Navon and burial in the cemetery for Great Leaders of the Nation on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem