During his long and distinguished career, Arie Livne (1921-2020) served as an advisor to the president of the Republic of Srpska, Milorad Dodik, as well as a senator of the Republic of Srpska, director-general of the Jewish Agency, a special representative of the World Jewish Congress, and president of the Jewish Cultural Center in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Livne was born in Budapest and spent his childhood in Novi Sad, Serbia. In late 1941, he was arrested by Hungarian occupation forces and sent to forced labor with a group of Jewish youth in a copper mine in Bor. He managed to escape to territory controlled by the Partisans, and joined their 25th Division. Most of his family was murdered in the Holocaust, including his mother in Auschwitz, while his father survived by becoming a scribe, thanks to his knowledge of German.
After liberation, he returned to Novi Sad where he worked in a military hospital. Following what he called “a friendly conversation with an old friend,” he was accused of disclosing state secrets and sentenced to 10 years in prison but was freed after seven years. After his release, Livni set up a film company in Belgrade that he managed.
Soon after making aliyah in 1956, he began a career in the Jewish Agency, where he worked until his retirement. He held a number of senior positions, including head of the Information Department and deputy director-general. He also established the National Cinema Archive in Jerusalem, later named the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive.
Livne returned to the country of his youth in 1995, assuming international and regional positions in Belgrade and Pale, and later Banja Luka. He was awarded the highest honors bestowed by the Republic of Srpska, where he also served as a member of the Senate. He was presented with the Order of the Republic of Srpska for his efforts on behalf of the Serbian people, together with a special letter of thanks for “strengthening friendly relations between the Serbian and Jewish peoples.”
The Arie Livne Jewish Cultural Center in Banja Luka was inaugurated in 2014 and named in his honor. It includes a religious center: the Ilona Weiss Synagogue named after Livne’s mother.
In his later years, Livne split his time between Jerusalem and Laktaši in the Republic of Srpska. After his death at the age of 99, Livne was buried in Jerusalem on September 10, 2020. He was survived by his wife and daughter.