Isaac Herzog speaks at the Knesset.
(photo credit: ISAAC HARARI)
Shortly after the founding of the state, Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Isaac Halevi Herzog, authored the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel.
In the prayer, Herzog wrote that Israel would be “reshit tzmihat geulateinu ,” the beginning of the blossoming of our redemption. Herzog’s powerful words expressed the essence of Religious Zionism and are now the emotional highlight in synagogue services throughout the world, especially in challenging times for the State of Israel.
Seventy years later, Herzog’s grandson and namesake, opposition leader Isaac Herzog, was selected as the new head of the Jewish Agency. His appointment surprised many, as did the support he received from Religious Zionists.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the appointment, and the only vote against Herzog in the selection committee that chose him came from the representative of World Likud.
But Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett praised the choice of Herzog, say ing that “the Knesset lost a terrific parliamentarian, but the Jewish people gained a man of vision.” Bennett said he trusted Herzog could build a new bridge between Israel and the Jews of the world.
World Zionist Organization chairman Avraham Duvdevani of the Religious Zionist Mizrachi told the agency’s board of governors that “there can be no better candidate.”
And I was quoted by this newspaper in February saying that “Herzog would make a great chairman of the Jewish Agency, because of his respect for Religious Zionism and understanding of Diaspora Jews.”
That respect was one of many reasons Religious Zionists supported Herzog. His solid background was another.
Herzog went to the Religious Zionist Ramaz high school in New York, which prides itself on teaching its students to commit themselves to a life of Torah, mitzvot and support for the State of Israel.
Religious Zionists can be proud that a product of one of our schools rose through the ranks to become the head of the agency. He still regularly goes to a Religious Zionist synagogue in Tel Aviv.
Herzog is known for his ability to accomplish his goals quietly, behind the scenes. He is a man of compromise, at a time when all sides will have to let their guard down and put the good of the Jewish people first.
But most of all, he is a unifier. There are so many rifts that divide the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and how the two work together. He can help ease those rifts.
Herzog’s ability to help his Jewish brothers get along comes from his Religious Zionist upbringing. Religious Zionists in Israel are proud to serve as the bridge between the secular and the haredim, understanding and respecting the needs of both.
He cares deeply about the future of Israel and the Jewish people, following in the footsteps of this father, Chaim Herzog, who as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations ripped up the UN resolution that Zionism is racism, and of his grandfather, who unsuccessfully met with then-US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in an effort to save the remnants of European Jewry.
Herzog learned from his grandfather how to be a mensch, and that is what the leadership of world Jewry requires more than ever.
So good luck, chairman Herzog. We will be praying for your success.The author is the co-president of the Religious Zionists of America and chair man of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity and serves as a committee member of the Jewish Agency. martinoliner@ gmail.com
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