Yitzhak Navon was the people’s president. During his five years in office, he received more than 300,000 visitors at the President’s House and made more than 300 trips to all parts of Israel where he met with additional hundreds of thousands of citizens.
If you have a personal experience you’d like to share – anecdotes, photographs, poems, paintings, letters – please send them to us. Selected submissions will be published on this page.
A drawing by kindergartner Revital, from Haifa
To my dear president!
A flower full of love
May you have a wonderful life.
I don’t know how many of you recall the quotation cited on the invitation to today’s event, but for me, that quotation expresses the essence. It is the definitive declaration of love:
“A language must be loved. To love it, you must get close to it and woo it carefully, whereupon it will open up to you in all its beauty. But it demands your protection, as well.”
Simply in love. There’s no better word for it. And faithful. And, yes… zealous, at times. Passionate toward his language. Our fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, loved the Hebrew language with all his heart and sought to protect it with all his might.
His speech was refined, eloquent, studded with biblical quotes and ancient expressions. The stories of the Bible were a constant companion during childhood, and his language – both formally and informally – was often peppered with idioms and expressions borrowed from the language of our ancestors.
“Words from the Heart,” Na'ama Navon, November 13, 2017
If I had to choose one word to describe my father, I would choose “teacher.”
My father was a teacher by training, but he was also a teacher in a much broader sense.
With his vast knowledge, he would guide, mentor, focus, direct with unwavering diligence, and set an example for all to see.
If I had to choose two words to describe my father, I would choose “teacher” and “student,” because in addition to being a true teacher, he was also endlessly curious, always thirsty for knowledge.
Maybe it was those two aspects of his personality – the teacher and the student – that made him such a widely loved and accepted figure. His deep respect for all people, his ability to find a common language with each and every person, his curiosity about people’s stories, pasts, and desires, and the manner in which he sought to inspire fulfillment and self-realization in everyone around him – these qualities demonstrate his greatness as a teacher, student, and public figure.
My dear father,
I did not come here to mourn you, but to sit by your side!
To follow you down ancient roads and tell of your presence and your absence in our lives …
To speak of longing…
I miss my father drinking his cup of coffee, the touch of his hand, his voice.
I miss his ability to keep his fellow citizens in his thoughts, from the moment he woke up until he went to bed at night.
Every man, woman, and child with whom he met, whose story he heard, whose path he crossed – they fascinated him deeply and touched him to the core.
I miss his love of the written language, of lyricism, shifting effortlessly between the archaic and the modern, and his appreciation for parables, poems, and phrases passed on from generation to generation, from grandfather to mother to daughter and son.
The appreciation for ancient traditions and the desire to preserve them for future generations imparted my father with a deep understanding of the importance of defending the unique voice of every ethnicity and culture and the significance of promoting literacy among all citizens.
That, if you will, is why I miss his unique educational vision, which saw indiscriminate respect for all cultures as a tool for enriching the lives of us all.
I miss his displeasure with the public discourse growing superficial and the language growing coarse and circumscribed. Because before we strip our language of its most precious assets, we must first honor it by learning it all. Before we strip away our rich vocabulary, we must remember it, know it and its past, its sources, its culture.
I miss his belief that words beget reality and his attempt to lead his country into a new age of tolerance, camaraderie, mutual support, rather than one of incitement, divisiveness, and disrespect.
I miss his belief in equality, his curiosity, his caring nature, his solidarity.
I miss his belief in peace, coexistence, and good neighborliness; his desire to reach out to the unknown and break down the barriers of language, estrangement, and fear.
I miss the man who believed that people can overcome any obstacle – as long as they do it together.
I miss his desire to be the voice of those who felt they had lost their right to words and felt unheard, his efforts to unite, to find a place for each of us, to reach out.
I miss his kind heart that heard beyond what was said in words, that understood beyond the limits of our senses, that knew what was hidden deep within.
I miss his optimism and his ability to always find the silver lining; how he listened for the sound of birds’ songs at dawn, and the dripping of rain in winter; his pure delight as he marvelled at a flower budding out of a crack in a fence.
Dear father, I miss your warm smile, your laughter, your openness, and your love.
I came to sit with you and speak of my longing… But my words are too small to fill the gaping chasm left in our hearts when you left us.
Maybe it’s because longing can’t be described in words, not really.
And me? I miss you so!
Letter from Hava Rosenbaum, mother of Daphna, December 27, 1981
Allow me to take up a few moments of your time. I felt that I had to write to you and tell you about my four-year old daughter, Daphna.
Last week, early one morning, sleep still in her eyes, my daughter turned to me and said, “Mother, I know who’s looking out for us – God and Yitzhak Navon!”
Please consider this your hard-earned reward.
Letter from Druze soldier Kaduri Nazia to President Navon, May 5, 1983
I am a Druze soldier serving as a warrant officer in the Armored Corps. My name is Kaduri Nazia, and I am from Daliyat al-Karmel.
I decided to write you this letter so that I may express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation.
Sir, during your term in office, I have listened to all your speeches, both on television and on the radio – some of which you addressed directly to the Druze people. I appreciated the honesty and genuinely good intentions shining through each of your words. I appreciated your visits to Druze towns and villages and your tour of the Hatikva neighborhood early on in your presidency.
How we will miss you! We and all Israelis.
From the bottom of my heart, I wish you and your family nothing but happiness and success in every endeavor.
You are welcome to come and stay with us whenever you like.
You have my deepest respect and appreciation,
Letter from new immigrant Moshe Rosenberg, May 6, 1981
As a new immigrant from the United States, I was highly impressed by your speech on the eve of Independence Day about the contribution of Western immigrants to the state, the essence of Zionism, and the importance of Jewish immigration from the United States.
Today, as I face unemployment, I am sure I will find my place in our country.
Your words gave me the strength I need to succeed in this task.
Rhyming poem from Yitzhak Conrad to Navon upon the conclusion of his presidential term, May 5, 1983
Five years have passed in the blink of an eye,
Your country you served in dedication most high.
With song we asked your spirits to lift,
For your virtue is truly a Godly gift.
Generations will remember you, noble and great,
Adored by leaders from every country and state.
Humility personified, your word is your bond,
Pearls of wisdom your every word spawned.
Our days without you seem empty and bleak,
Savior of the helpless, defender of the weak.
You spoke to all with the voice of a friend,
And made countless connections that will last to the end.
Forever in our hearts, your legacy succeeds,
Our sons and daughters will know your good deeds.
A president of Israel like no one before,
We bask in your light and splendor forevermore.
Your humble fan,
Yitzhak Levy Conrad
Letter from Na’im Abdu Julis, February 2, 2010
To the Great Mr. Yitzhak Navon,
History may be written by ordinary people,
but it is made by great ones.
You, sir, are one of the greats, a source of pride for your people.
Deputy Manager of Food Services Julis Na’im