Prof. Aryeh Levin, linguist and father of justice minister, dies at 85

Renowned researcher and teacher of Arabic language won Israel Prize in 2010 for work that included writing Education Ministry school syllabi

Undated photo of Prof. Aryeh Levine. (Hebrew University)
Undated photo of Prof. Aryeh Levine. (Hebrew University)

Prof. Aryeh Levin, the father of Justice Minister Yariv Levin and a past winner of the Israel Prize for his work in researching the Arabic language, died Sunday at the age of 85.

Levin’s death was announced by the justice minister’s office in a statement that thanked those who offered condolences while asking that the family be permitted to observe the traditional week of mourning, the shiva, “in a limited family setting only.”

The justice minister also serves as chair of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. A spokesperson for minister Levin said the committee will continue to meet as scheduled. The meetings will be chaired by National Security Minister Itamar Be Gvir, who leads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party.

The development came as the government is advancing contentious legislation to overhaul the judiciary, with the committee set to review some key bills in the the plan this week.

News of Levin’s passing came as the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee was holding a meeting on aspects of the judiciary legislation. Committee chair MK Simcha Rothman offered condolences and listed Levin’s achievements.

Opposition MK Gilad Kariv, who was at the meeting, said that Levin had “made a big contribution to Israel’s security. Intelligence corps veterans know that.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted condolences in the name of the government.

“I know how much Yariv was attached to him in every fiber of his being and we send him and his family deep condolences,” Netanyahu wrote.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin attends the Knesset debate on the coalition’s first judicial reform bill, February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid also tweeted his condolences, as did fellow opposition MK Benny Gantz, leader of the National Unity party, who wrote that Levin “contributed much to the knowledge and spread of Arabic language studies in Israel.”

Aryeh Levin was born in Ramat Gan in 1937. In 1971 he completed a doctorate in Arabic language and literature at the Hebrew University, then went on to hold various teaching positions there until being made a full professor in 1985. Levin later received a university award for his tutoring in 2001.

Alongside his teaching role, Levin chaired Education Ministry committees that laid out syllabus content for Arabic language studies in schools. He also continued to research the Arabic language, winning the prestigious Israel Prize for his work in 2010.

Remarks explaining the honor said, “His comprehensive and thorough studies in the writings of the ancient Arab grammarians shed much light on the history of Arabic grammar, on its nomenclature and theories, and on the history of the Arabic language and its many dialects.”

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