'Among my own people I dwell'

Among my own people I d

December 3, 2009 13:54
3 minute read.
herzog book cover 248.88

herzog book cover 248.88. (photo credit: )

This huge volume, dedicated to Chaim Herzog, the sixth president of Israel, is the eighth in a series published by the Israel State Archives to commemorate the nation's presidents and prime ministers. I was wrong about my initial fears of being presented with another boring specimen of official, but not always interesting, nomenclature. Anyone wishing to learn more about the country's history will enjoy this rich collection of documents and photographs illustrating gatherings and incidents that so many of us have forgotten. Herzog was unique among Jewish and Zionist heroes. He was born in Belfast on September 17, 1918, the eldest son of Ireland's chief rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog (1888-1959), who in 1937 became the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Palestine. Educated at Cambridge and London universities, where he earned his doctorate in law, Chaim made aliya in 1935 and studied at the Hebron Yeshiva and Talmudic Seminary for two years before joining the Hagana. During World War II Herzog fought on the beaches of Normandy, France, and in Germany, and served as a high-ranking officer in British intelligence. Three years later he became the operations officer for the IDF's Seventh Brigade. He retired as chief of staff of the Intelligence Corps in 1962. Herzog won both fame and popularity as the leading military commentator for the Israel Broadcasting Authority when, during the Six Day War, his calming comments were widely heard by an anxious public. Herzog was the first military commander of the West Bank, before returning to civilian life as a lawyer and businessman. A frequent commentator in the leading papers, including The Jerusalem Post, Herzog continued to show deep interest in both domestic and international developments. A senior member of the Labor Party, he served as ambassador to the UN in 1975, where he headed the campaign against the slur that Zionism equals racism. He was also the founder and chairman of the Committee for Concerned Citizens before he reached the peak of his career in 1983, when he succeeded Yitzhak Navon as president. Elected twice, he served for 10 years and hosted 11,000 official receptions, receiving more than a million letters and petitions. The present collection of documents, well-illustrated by dozens of photographs, covers almost every day of his activities, all of which contributed to the development of Israel. After his retirement in 1993, Herzog devoted more time to his family. He died on April 17, 1997, and was survived by his wife, four children and grandchildren. One of his sons, Isaac, is the current minister of welfare and social services and minister for the Diaspora. Herzog, the former soldier, statesman and author, and an excellent columnist, was a man of no nonsense and had a tremendous sense of duty. I was deeply moved by his letter to Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neriya in answer to the latter's demand to grant amnesty to the Jewish Underground. Herzog reminds Neriya, with all due respect, that "among my own people I dwell" (II Kings 4:13). He understood all of Neriya's arguments only too well, but reminded him that the terrorists had committed terrible crimes. Herzog wrote that however painful it may be, the law must be observed, for otherwise we will all sink into anarchy. It is obvious how difficult it was for him to say no, but he had to do what he considered best for the country. It must have been difficult for the editors to select 183 from more than 7,000 documents, but there can be little doubt that they succeeded in presenting Herzog as he really was. The book is a work of love and dedication that will serve this and future generations.

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