Former minister, veteran Labor lawmaker Ora Namir dies at 88
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Former minister, veteran Labor lawmaker Ora Namir dies at 88

Namir served in the Knesset for 22 years, and then as ambassador to China; remembered as a ‘social warrior’ and for her efforts on behalf of the education system

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Ora Namir, left, and Arieh 'Luba' Eliav, December 1, 2005. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Ora Namir, left, and Arieh 'Luba' Eliav, December 1, 2005. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Ora Namir, a Labor Party politician who served in two ministerial roles, died Sunday at the age of 88.

Party peers remembered Namir for her activism on social issues and particularly for her efforts to improve the education system.

“The Knesset mourns the passing of former MK Ora Namir,” the Knesset official Twitter feed said in a message. “Namir was a member of the 8th Knesset until the 13th Knesset for the Labor Party.”

President Reuven Rivlin said Namir’s death “is sad news indeed.”

“Ora Namir worked in various capacities to promote the status of women and the committee she chaired recommended the enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunities Law, which is now a cornerstone of employment law in Israel,” Rivlin said in a statement. “In her later years as welfare minister, Ora contributed greatly to the development of assistance to the weaker sections of the society with sensitivity and responsibility.

“The people of Israel will continue to cherish her memory and her actions,” continued Rivlin, who as a lawmaker for the Likud party served in parliament alongside Namir in the 12th Knesset. “May her memory be a blessing.”

The Labor Party said in a statement that “all of Israel’s citizens benefit from her life’s work.”

“Namir was very active on social issues and fought for equality, for free education for children, for a longer school day,” the statement said.

Labor Party leader MK Amir Peretz recalled serving in the Knesset alongside Namir.

“Ora’s death is painful, our personal relationship was amazing, and I loved our conversations together,” he tweeted. “Ora was for me a top authority on social issues. In the future, her legacy as a social warrior will light my way for me.”

He posted a photo of himself with Namir and former MK Aryeh “Lova” Eliav, one of the founders of the Labor Party, who died in 2010.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein recalled meeting Namir in Moscow in 1981, when he was being denied the right to leave the Soviet Union for Israel.

“Ora took advantage of her participation in an international conference that was being held in Moscow to come to us and hold our hands,” Edelstein wrote on Facebook. “She was a great Zionist, with all her soul and might. Zionism was for her a supreme value a way of life.”

Six years later, after Edelstein was released from prison and granted the right to emigrate, Namir helped him when he arrived in the country, he recalled. His first ever visit to the Knesset, Edelstein said, was at the invitation of Namir for a meal in the cafeteria.

“Although I did not have the privilege of serving with her in the Knesset, through her longstanding and continuous parliamentary activity she was a mentor for me — despite the many disagreements between us,” Edelstein wrote.

Born in Hadera in 1930, Namir served as an officer in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. She later married Mordechai Namir, a former mayor of Tel Aviv..

Namir was elected to the Knesset in 1974 and maintained her seat for the next 22 years, during many of which she was a member of the Education and Culture Committee, which she also chaired. In 1975, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin appointed her to head the Prime Minister’s Committee for the Examination of the Status of Women in Israel.

In 1992 she made an unsuccessful bid to become Labor leader, and the same year was appointed by Rabin, in his second stint as premier, as education minister.

A year later she became labor and social welfare minister, a position she held until 1996. That year she resigned her cabinet position and quit politics to become ambassador to China.

After returning to Israel, she ran in the 2003 Knesset elections as a member of the One Nation party but did not win a seat in parliament.

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