Former Israeli President Yitzhak Navon dies at 94; bridged cultural gaps

Former Israeli President Yitzhak Navon 1921 - 2015.

Story highlights

  • Yitzhak Navon became the first Israeli President to visit an Arab country, Egypt, in 1980
  • He served under Prime Minister Menachem Begin from 1978-1983

Jerusalem (CNN)Yitzhak Navon, Israel's fifth President and its first President born in Jerusalem, died Saturday morning at age 94, Israel's foreign ministry said.

Navon became the first Israeli President to visit an Arab state, when he traveled to Egypt in October 1980. He was given a warm reception by then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who had signed the Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty months before.
    Navon was known for his work to bridge ethnic gaps, including relations between religious and secular Jews and between Jews and Arabs, according to the Israeli presidency's website.
    He served under Prime Minister Menachem Begin from 1978-1983. Before his presidency, Navon worked with David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister. He was elected to the Knesset in 1965 and served there until his presidency.
    After serving as President, Navon returned to politics in 1984, winning a seat with the center-left Alignment party. He became the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and served on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He left politics in 1992.
    Navon was a scholar of the Arabic language and of Islam, as well as Hebrew literature. Navon was also the author of two musical plays and one book, titled "Six Days and Seven Gates."
    Before entering politics, Navon worked in the foreign embassies in Argentina and Uruguay.