President Reuven Rivlin

7 years, 5 elections and 1 sneaky walkabout

President Reuven Rivlin ends a tumultuous term that included political crisis, war and pandemic while he stood in the eye of the storm to defend democracy and bridge growing societal gaps; Shin Bet pays tribute to departing leader by revealing his disguise for a covert outing in public

Itamar Eichner |
Published: 07.07.21, 12:37
President Reuven Rivlin's seven-year term in office comes to an end Wednesday as he passes the mantle to former Labor leader Yitzhak Herzog.
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  • The Rivlin era saw some of the most tumultuous episodes in Israeli history, with the head of state standing in the eye of the storm to defend democracy and bridge the ever-growing gaps within the country's society.
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    ראובן ריבלין
    ראובן ריבלין
    President Reuven Rivlin
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    In honor of the occasion, the Shin Bet security service Wednesday published a photo of Rivlin heavily disguised and walking around in public.
    The usually clean-shaven and white-haired Rivlin was shown with a thick dark wig and a bushy black beard.
    In the background could be seen people in plain clothes, apparently part of a Shin Bet undercover unit.
    "For several hours, the president enjoyed complete anonymity alongside Shin Bet operatives who are well trained in covert work," the security service said.
    "In the name of employees of the General Security Service: Thank you, Mr. President, for years of significant work for the State of Israel!"
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    ריבלין בשטח עם אנשי השב"כ
    ריבלין בשטח עם אנשי השב"כ
    A disguised President Reuven Rivlin talks a covert trip out in public
    (Photo: Shin Bet)
    During his time in office, Rivlin gave 1,830 pardons, erased 1,365 criminal records (350 of them belonging to soldiers), conducted 932 tours across Israel, made 131 visits to IDF bases, paid 254 condolence calls to bereaved families of terror victims and fallen soldiers, conducted 35 foreign state visits and held 47 hours of deliberations with political parties on who to task with forming a government - including eight rounds of talks following the five elections since 2015.
    One achievement Rivlin is very much proud of is making the presidential residence in Jerusalem a more public institution, with over 130,000 visitors passing through its doors during his tenure.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday spoke on the phone with the outgoing president, during which both leaders expressed their hope that peace between the two sides would be achieved as soon as possible. Rivlin thanked the Palestinian leader for his call.
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    מערכת הביטחון הישראלית נפרדת ומצדיעה לנשיא המדינה העשירי ראובן (רובי) ריבלין
    מערכת הביטחון הישראלית נפרדת ומצדיעה לנשיא המדינה העשירי ראובן (רובי) ריבלין
    President Rivlin attends a farewell ceremony at the Defense Ministry's Kiriya headquarters in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, flanked by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi
    (Photo: Defense Ministry)
    The IDF also held a farewell ceremony at the Defense Ministry's Kiriya headquarters in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, accompanied by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and other military top brass.
    "Today you are thanking me, but the real gratitude goes to you, who work to protect Israel day and night," Rivlin said.
    "I was and still am a soldier in defense of the state and have served with great belief and love. I am not saying goodbye, I will continue to serve you in the future."
    "Mr. President, you entered this post at the height of the 2014 Gaza war, and from the start your care for the country's security was noticeable, especially with bereaved families, the wounded and every soldier who needed assistance," said Gantz.
    "And you have contributed greatly to our inner resilience, an integral part of our security, seeking to be a unifier at every opportunity. Thank you for holding us together as a cohesive and democratic society even in difficult times."
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    בידן וריבלין
    בידן וריבלין
    President Reuven Rivlin meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House last week
    (Photo: GPO)
    On the international stage, Rivlin worked to create a broad global commitment to Holocaust remembrance and led a transnational and nationwide struggle against anti-Semitism and racism, leveraging his ties with world leaders to advance Israel's political, security and economic interests.
    What could be considered the height of this effort was the 2020 international Holocaust summit held in Israel on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, which Rivlin organized.
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    ארוחת ערב ב בית הנשיא נשיא המדינה ראובן ריבלין
    ארוחת ערב ב בית הנשיא נשיא המדינה ראובן ריבלין
    President Reuven Rivlin clasps hands with French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during a photo op at the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, January 2020
    (Photo: AFP)
    During the pandemic, the presidential residence established a special program for assistance requests from Israelis who found themselves in economic trouble.
    Another issue the president fought against was bullying boycotts among children.
    In 2014, Rivlin enlisted support for George Amira, an 11-year-old student who suffered teasing and harassment from his classmates. Amira conveyed his feelings in a video he posted on social media.
    The president, who saw the video, invited Amira to Jerusalem to make a joint film against bullying and violence. The president later launched the "Do not Stand aside" campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the issue of bullying among children and young people on social media.
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    ראובן ריבלין נחמה מתנה ל נסיך ארצ'י בנם בכור של הארי ו מייגן קוביות עץ
    ראובן ריבלין נחמה מתנה ל נסיך ארצ'י בנם בכור של הארי ו מייגן קוביות עץ
    President Rivlin with his late wife Nehama
    (Photo: GPO)
    In June 2019, the president's wife of almost 50 years, Nehama Rivlin, passed away after a long illness.
    At the presidential residence, Nehama promoted issues that had long been close to her heart.
    She established a community garden in the residence, which was visited by children from around the country to sow seeds and planting greenery, spices and flowers. She regularly visited cultural institutions throughout the country, with an emphasis on Jerusalem, and in 2018 founded the President's Wife Award for Hebrew poetry.
    With his public service coming to a close after decades, the 81-year-old Rivlin departs the house on HaNasi Street and moves back to his own apartment in Jerusalem, leaving behind the moniker of "first citizen" and again becoming the regular Israeli he has always said he is.
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