A memorial service is held at the Mt. Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem, March 30, honoring Israel’s sixth president Chaim Herzog.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel’s sixth president Chaim Herzog (1918-1997) was a great humanist and democrat, recalled his son, Zionist Union party head Isaac Herzog on Monday, as he spoke at a small memorial service at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.
His Irish-born father, who immigrated to what was then Palestine in 1935 and served in the British army, was heavily influenced by his participation in the liberation of concentration camps in Europe at the end of World War II, recalled Herzog.
“What he saw in the Holocaust, what he experienced during his life, turned him into a humanist and a great democrat. When he hit the height of his career, as a president, he did everything to ensure that democracy and humanism would exist together with the kippa [skullcap]” recalled his son.
Chaim Herzog did not see a contradiction between the two forces, but rather believed that Judaism and democracy were connected and strengthened each other, said his son.
He recalled his father as a beloved figure and a respected military man, attorney, educator, politician, diplomat and finally Israel’s president from 1983-1993.
As president, his father twice-refused to host US-Israeli politician Meir Kahane and his people, said Herzog. Kahane’s Kach party, was banned in 1988, because it was deemed racist and anti-democratic.
“He did this out of a deep conviction that someone who was racist and who hated minorities should not be in the President’s Residence,” said Herzog.
It was important to remember this at a time when there are voices against minorities in Israel, he added.
Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) recalled that Chaim Herzog had served as ambassador to the UN in 1978, when the infamous resolutions equating Zionism with racism were passed. He described how Herzog fought against it as a lion would and even symbolically tore it up.
He quoted from Herzog’s speech to the UN, in which he said, “While praying to his God, every Jew, wherever he is in the world, faces toward Jerusalem. For over 2,000 years of exile these prayers have expressed the yearning of the Jewish people to return to their ancient homeland; Israel.”