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Nechama Rivlin, Israel's first lady, dies on eve of 74th birthday

By Darryl Coote
Nechama Rivlin, Israel's first lady, dies on eve of 74th birthday
Israeli First Lady Nechama Rivlin, who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, underwent lung transplant surgery in March but returned to the hospital weeks later due to her weakening condition. Photo by Abir Sultan/EPA-EFE

June 5 (UPI) -- Nechama Rivlin, Israel's first lady and wife of President Reuven Rivlin, died a day before her birthday Tuesday, at the age of 73, the President's Residence said in a statement.

Rivlin was being treated at Beilinson Hospital, in Petah Tikva, when she died. She was receiving treatment following a lung transplant in March, The Times of Israel reported.

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"Three months after a lung transplant, Nechama Rivlin died this morning," the hospital said in a statement. "To our regret, the medical efforts to stabilize her over time during the complicated rehabilitation period after the transplant did not succeed."

Rivlin underwent lung transplant surgery March 12 as she suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, which is a lung disease that damages and scars the organ, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he, his wife Sara Netanyahu and the citizens of Israel all express "deep sorrow" in her passing.

"We all prayed for her healing during the last period in which she fought bravely and intensely for her life," he said on Twitter. "We extend our heartfelt condolences to the president and to all his family."

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The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised Rivlin for having dedicated her life to her country, which she expressed through promoting the arts, environmental conservation and the inclusion of those with special needs, it said.

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"Her compassion and love for her nation will be greatly missed," it said on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered his condolences and those of the American people, stating she was "beloved for her warmth and kindness, she touched the hearts of so many over the years."

"Our hearts are with all who mourn her loss during this difficult time," he said in a statement. "May her memory be a blessing."

Her funeral was to take place Wednesday at Mount Herzl where there will be a viewing at the Jerusalem Theater before she is interned in the cemetery's Leaders of Nation section, The Jerusalem Post reported.

"At the request of the family, and as a mark of their deep appreciation for the concern shown by the citizens of Israel during her illness, the public is invited to participate in both events," the President's Residence said.

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