Former health minister Victor Shemtov died in Jerusalem on Saturday at age 99.
Shemtov made aliya from Bulgaria in 1939 and joined the Hashomer Hatza’ir Zionist-socialist pioneering youth movement.
He served on the Histadrut labor federation’s action committee. He was an MK for several years, representing Mapam from 1961 to 1969 and from 1984 to 1988, and the Labor Alignment in 1969 and from 1981 to 1984.
Shemtov was minister-without-portfolio in 1969-1970, health minister from 1970 to 1977, and briefly welfare minister in 1974.
Health Minister Yael German voiced sorrow over the death of Shemtov and expressed condolences to his family. He was health minister in the governments of Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin.
“He contributed for many years to public life,” German said on Saturday night.
“Shemtov put his stamp on Israeli society and the struggle for equality and justice – in the country in general and in the health system.”
President Shimon Peres, who also served in those governments, described Shemtov as a man before his time in the struggle for social justice and workers rights.
Peres recalled that Shemtov had been in the forefront of the battle to upgrade poor neighborhoods, with the aim of reducing gaps between the different sectors of society. The president eulogized Shemtov as “an exemplary public servant” with a special sensitivity and a unique gift for treating others with dignity.
He was a loyal servant of the state both as a member of Knesset and a government minister, Peres said.
He praised Shemtov as a man of values who fought for the right of every resident of Israel to receive the best health treatment, and who as minister inspired significant progress in public health policy.
Shemtov was a prominent member of the peace camp, and here too was ahead of his time in searching for ways to bring about peace with the Palestinians, said Peres. As an opposition MK when Golda Meir was prime minister in the 1970s, he called upon her to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization and negotiate with it. He later vigorously opposed the first Lebanon War.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On, who honored Shem-Tov with the 115th slot on her party’s list to the current Knesset, called him “a courageous fighter for social justice and peace who made advanced equality and human rights in every post he held.
Yair Tzaban, a former minister of immigrant absorption, who maintained an ongoing relationship with Shemtov, told Israel Radio that the deceased had been aptly named, because he left a good name behind him in all his endeavors.