What are Israeli president Herzog's reasons for visiting Switzerland? - comment

While Herzog is in Switzerland, he will witness the signing of a groundbreaking agreement between Israel and the Swiss National Science Foundation.

 President Herzog at the Dubai expo, 1/31/2022. (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
President Herzog at the Dubai expo, 1/31/2022.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

It doesn't always work out for the president of Israel to pay a state visit to a country in which a major Jewish event is being simultaneously celebrated or commemorated, but this week is one of the pleasant exceptions to the rule.

It has been known for some months that President Isaac Herzog would be the guest of honor at the 125th-anniversary celebrations of the First Zionist Congress in Basel. 

Nearly every press release from participating organizations from various places around the globe mentioned this.

What was not public knowledge, however, was that Herzog's visit to Switzerland is also official, in that he will meet with his Swiss counterpart President Ignazio Cassis and senior government officials, as well as members of the Government of the Basel canton and representatives of the Swiss Jewish community.

Even without the gala anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, Herzog would be meeting with Jewish community leaders. 

 President of Israel Isaac Herzog speaking at opening of World Union of Jewish Studies Congress (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO) President of Israel Isaac Herzog speaking at opening of World Union of Jewish Studies Congress (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

It is both a practice and a tradition of the past presidents of Israel to meet with the Jewish leadership, and sometimes the wider Jewish community, in all the countries which they visit.

While Herzog is in Switzerland, he will witness the signing of a groundbreaking agreement between Israel and the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The couple's official visit

Herzog and his wife Michal are due to begin their official visit to Switzerland on Monday.

While their husbands are busy discussing bilateral and other issues, Michal Herzog will accompany Dr. Paola Rodoni Cassis to the former home of Albert Einstein, which now serves as a museum that documents the period of his life as a physicist and violinist, when he lived in Bern.

It should be remembered, that in 1952, following the death of Israel's first President Chaim Weizmann, that Prime Minister David Ben Gurion turned to Einstein and asked him to become president, even though he was not an Israeli citizen. Einstein declined.

It is interesting that the current president of Israel who will be the keynote speaker at the 125th-anniversary celebrations of the First Zionist Congress should be in Switzerland during the 70th anniversary of the presidency being offered to Einstein

He might reflect on how different Israel's history would have evolved had Einstein accepted.