Former Knesset Speaker and Israel Prize laureate Shlomo Hillel passed away on Monday at the age of 97.
Hillel played a major role in facilitating the immigration of Jews from Iraq and also previously served as Police Minister and Interior Minister. He was President of the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites.
Hillel was first elected to the Knesset on behalf of the Mapai party in 1952 and seven years later moved on to a diplomatic career. He served as Israel's ambassador to Guinea and to the Ivory Coast. He later headed the Africa Department at the Foreign Ministry and was a member of the Israeli delegation to the UN.
In 1969, Hillel returned to the Knesset and served consecutively from 1969 until 1992. He was Minister of Police between 1969 and 1977, and Interior Minister in 1974 and 1977. In 1984 he was elected Speaker of the 11th Knesset.
He later served as head of Keren Hayesod before heading the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites.
In 1988, Hillel was awarded the Israel Prize, for his special contribution to the society and the State of Israel.
President Reuven Rivlin paid tribute to Hillel and said, "I received with great sorrow the news of the death of Shlomo Hillel, the 10th Speaker of the Knesset, the Minister of the Interior and the Police and the winner of the Israel Prize. He was from a generation of giants, a generation that fought with its own hands for the establishment of the State of Israel, for its fortification and existence as a safe haven for the Jewish people. He worked to bring immigrants to the country from the East in many and varied ways, openly and secretly, in daring and far-sighted illegal immigration operations, and many owe their Aliyah and their taking root in the county to him."
"As Speaker of the Knesset, he was committed to strengthening the status and resilience of Israeli democracy and the legislature, and demanded that Knesset members exercise parliamentary oversight of the executive branch," added Rivlin.
Knesset Speaker MK Yariv Levin said that "Israel is today saying goodbye to one of its noblest leaders. A dedicated public figure, who worked hard for the restoration and construction of the state, and did much to encourage immigration and bring many immigrants to Israel in daring operations."
"Bidding farewell to Shlomo Hillel means bidding farewell to an extraordinary Zionist leader, to whom the State of Israel owes much for his long-standing public and diplomatic work. We will miss Shlomo Hillel's inspiring leadership very much. I extend my condolences to his family," Levin added.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, "I deeply mourn, together with the people of Israel, the passing of the late Shlomo Hillel - a Zionist activist before and after the establishment of the state, a diplomat, Speaker of the Knesset and Minister in the Israeli governments."