Miriam Eshkol, wife of Israel’s 3rd prime minister, dies at 87
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Miriam Eshkol, wife of Israel’s 3rd prime minister, dies at 87

As first lady, she dedicated herself to public life, was known for taking a vocal and active role in assisting her husband

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A portrait of Miriam Eshkol, the late wife of former Prime Minister Levi Eskhol in 1964. (Pridan Moshe/GPO)
A portrait of Miriam Eshkol, the late wife of former Prime Minister Levi Eskhol in 1964. (Pridan Moshe/GPO)

Miriam Eshkol, the widow of Israel’s third prime minister, Levi Eshkol, died Saturday afternoon at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center at the age of 87, the hospital said in a statement.

She will be buried at the Mt. Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem alongside her husband at a later date.

A Knesset librarian by profession, Eshkol dedicated herself to public life during her husband’s term as prime minister from 1964-1969.

As the first lady, Eshkol led the committee for the establishment of Beit HaLohem, the national center for disabled IDF veterans, and was the founding president of the Jewish-Arab Friendship League.

Levy Eshkol (sitting) and his wife, Miriam, at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem (photo credit: GPO)
Levy Eshkol (sitting) and his wife, Miriam, at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem (photo credit: GPO)

Following her husband’s passing in 1969, she founded and chaired Yad Levi Eshkol and served as its chairwoman from 1970 to 2008.

In her later years, Eshkol served as president of the Israel Association of Female Academics, as well as the Association for the Advancement of Science and Medical Research. She also served on the board of directors of the Israel Museum.

Eshkol was born in Romania in 1929, and emigrated with her family as a small child to British Mandate Palestine in 1930, who settled in Ramat Gan and later Tel Aviv.

In 1947, Eshkol joined the nascent Israeli army and accompanied Palmach fighters in efforts to free a besieged Jerusalem during the War of Independence the following year.

Eshkol earned a BA in English literature and an MA in medieval history from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She considered pursuing a doctorate in history but decided against it after becoming the prime minister’s wife.

Miriam Eshkol, wife of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, dancing with then Ugandan foreign minister Sam Odaka and army chief (and later president) Idi Amin on a visit to an army base outside Kampala, June, 1966. (GPO)
Miriam Eshkol, wife of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, dancing with then Ugandan foreign minister Sam Odaka and army chief (and later president) Idi Amin on a visit to an army base outside Kampala, June, 1966. (GPO)

Eshkol was known for taking a vocal and active role in assisting her husband, and often accompanied him on his diplomatic trips abroad.

In recently published photos, Eshkol can be seen dancing with dictator-to-be Idi Amin at a Ugandan army base during her husband’s 1966 state visit to central Africa.

In a statement Saturday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Miriam Eshkol “worked tirelessly to establish a visitors’ center to memorialize former Prime minister Levi Eshkol, which is set to open soon. We are saddened that she will not inaugurate the place she worked so hard for.”

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