Article - Chaim Herzog
Chaim Herzog, the sixth President of Israel, was born the eldest son of Rabbi Isaac Halevy and Rabbanit Sara Herzog in Ireland in 1918. He immigrated to Palestine in 1935, where his father became Chief Rabbi. While pursuing Jewish studies in Jerusalem, Chaim Herzog volunteered to serve in the Haganah (the Jewish defense organization in Palestine until 1948). Later, during World War II, he joined the British army. Serving as an officer in Europe he not only participated in the fight against the Nazi terror but both witnessed and assisted the liberation of concentration camps.
On his return to Palestine, at the end of the war, Herzog held senior posts in the Jewish Agency. With the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces he again saw active service as an officer in the War of Independence, where he was one of the founders and the first commander of the Intelligence Corps. By the time of his release from the army, with the rank of Aluf (General), he had held many senior positions, among them Military Attache in Washington DC, head of the Jerusalem Brigade, Chief of Staff of the Southern Command and Director of Military Intelligence. Following the Six-Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem, he was called back to serve as the first Military Governor of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Chaim Herzog's voice became well known to the Israeli pubic during the Six-Day War and the subsequent Yom Kippur War. As a military commentator, his reassuring words and descriptions of the military situation were avidly listened to and a genuine source of support at a time of grave concern for the safety of the country.
In 1975 Herzog was appointed Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. He represented Israel courageously and vigorously in the world forum. He will be especially remembered for his speech opposing the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism, which he concluded by tearing up the resolution, and for his defense of the rescue of the Entebbe hostages.
Herzog was elected to the Knesset as a Labor Party member in 1981 and was particularly active on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Constitution, Law and Judiciary Committee. He was elected the sixth President of the State of Israel in May 1983 and in 1988 was reelected for a second five-year term. His presidency was marked by his efforts towards unity and reconciliation within the nation. The day-to-day challenges facing the Israeli public, particularly those of a social nature, were always uppermost in his mind, and he worked tirelessly to bridge the gap among the diverse groups and factions in the nation. He maintained close contact with the Diaspora, always emphasizing the centrality of the State of Israel. In addition, he played an active role in representing Israel among the nations and in advancing Israel's foreign relations. He visited 31 countries on state and official visits and was the first president of Israel to make state visits to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and China.
In his personality and his life Chaim Herzog embodied the saga of the Jewish people in the twentieth century and Israel's first 50 years. He led a rich and varied life: as a soldier, statesman, public figure, diplomat, lawyer, commentator, and writer. His life was always imbued with a commitment to the Jewish heritage, faith in the spirit of Zionism, and pride in the State of Israel. He firmly believed that statesmanship must be rooted in the principles of democracy and law.
Chaim Herzog died in April 1997 and was buried in Jerusalem at the Mount Herzl National Cemetery, amongst Israel's great leaders.