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Nechama Rivlin’s moving gift to Melania Trump

Melania accompanied her husband, US President Donald Trump, on his maiden tour abroad as sitting president. Israel was the second stop on the president’s journey, and the pair paid  visits to sites such as the Western Wall, Holocaust museum Yad Vashem and the Church of the Holy Sepluchre in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Trump and his wife also spent an afternoon visit at the President’s Residence in the capital, where Nechama surprised Melania with the touching present: a book about a mother-son relationship meant for the First Lady to enjoy alongside her son, Trump’s fifth and youngest child.

The book, titled “Hug,” and given to Melania in copies in three languages (English, Hebrew and Arabic) was written by world-renowned Israeli author David Grossman. Grossman, a Man Booker Prize nominee, is mostly known for his adult literature, and has penned significant oeuvres that were translated into 30 languages such as “Some to Run With,” “Be My Knife,” and “To the End of the Land.”

“Hug” tells the story of a mother and a son who go on a walk. The child, named Ben, expresses his concern that he is alone in the world because he is “special.” His mother reassures him that despite his being one of a kind, he will never be truly alone.

Taking to social media immediately following the visit, Nechama Rivlin explained in a Facebook post why she chose to gift Melania with the unique present. “It was important for me to give Barron, who remained at home and is only 11 years old, a souvenir from his parents’ visit to Israel.”

“Melania was very moved, and immediately understood, even before reading its contents, that this was a story about a mother and a child,” Israel’s First Lady continued. “I very much hope Barron will like the book as much as I do.”

Soft-spoken and mild-mannered, Rivlin was eulogized Tuesday by Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum. She was also mourned by foreign diplomats stationed in Israel.

In 1964 she enrolled at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where she earned a BSc in Botany and Zoology, along with a Teaching Diploma. Rivlin became a researcher at Hebrew University in 1967. Her initial role was in the Department of Zoology and she later worked in the Department of Ecology, as well as in the Department of Genetics.

Later in life, she studied the history of art.

In 1971, Nechama Rivlin married Reuven Rivlin. The couple had three children, Rivka, Anat, and Ran.

President Reuven Rivlin’s wife Nechama makes a surprise visit to the Border Policemen at the A-zaim checkpoint during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, on December 28, 2016. (GPO)

In her role as Israel’s First Lady, she concentrated on areas she was most familiar with through her academic work and family. One area of focus was nature and the environment. She created a community garden, and began a new recycling system.

Rivlin suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, an interstitial lung disease. She was regularly seen in public with a portable oxygen tank. On 11 March 2019, Rivlin received a lung transplant. She died on 4 June, one day shy of her 74th birthday, of complications following the transplant.