Reuven and Nechama Rivlin in 2016.
(photo credit: YOAV DUDKEVITCH/TPS)
President Reuven Rivlin, who cut short his state visit to Canada to be at his wife’s bedside in Petah Tikva’s Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus, landed in Israel on Wednesday morning.
Nechama Rivlin, who has long been suffering from pulmonary fibrosis – a respiratory illness that necessitated her constant attachment to an oxygen tank – underwent a lung transplant on March 11. The operation was a success and she appeared to be recovering well. But on Tuesday evening, her condition suddenly deteriorated, and the President’s Office put out an announcement stating that she had been sedated and placed on respiratory support due to severe shortness of breath resulting from cardiac complications.
In response to her condition, Rivlin decided to return to Israel immediately, even though other family members were with his wife.
The president had been scheduled to be the guest of honor together with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday night at a United Jewish Appeal top donors dinner followed by a 70th anniversary Salute to Israel event attended by 1,600 members of the Canadian Jewish community, after which he was supposed to fly to Israel. But Rivlin bowed out of these two functions – where he would have underscored the importance of the relationship between the Diaspora and Israel – and left Canada earlier than intended.
When the visit to Canada was originally planned, Rivlin was also scheduled to return home via New York so that he could meet with American Jewish community leaders. But then early elections in Israel were announced, and Rivlin had to forgo the New York stopover.
As soon as news of Nechama Rivlin’s turn for the worse was made public, social media was flooded with thousands of get-well messages. There were more than 6,000 on Facebook within the first hour of the announcement from the President’s Office.
In addition, there were frequent news bulletins on Israeli television and radio stations, as well as on Israeli and overseas Jewish and general digital news outlets.
An early morning update from the President’s Office on Wednesday stated that Mrs. Rivlin had a quiet night and was in stable condition.
The Rivlins are a very close couple. The president has frequently introduced himself as the husband of the wife of the president of Israel. Despite her illness, Nechama Rivlin accompanied her husband on nearly all of his overseas trips, and would have likely have gone to Canada with him, had not the long-awaited lung transplant become available following a fatal traffic accident.
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