Remembering Chaim Herzog

It is common knowledge that Chaim Herzog, Israel's sixth president, was one of the founding members of Israel's military intelligence, a lawyer, scholar, diplomat, author and successful businessman. But it is less commonly known that in his youth he was the bantamweight boxing champion of Ireland. Though much has been written and said about Herzog since his death 10 years ago, it is doubtful that many people were aware that he cherished a secret ambition to be an opera singer or a cantor, so that his voice would reach out around the world to the very depths of the human soul. Isaac, the youngest of his three sons and currently minister for social affairs and Diaspora affairs, revealed this ambition on Wednesday at an official graveside ceremony on Mount Herzl attended by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Acting President Dalia Itzik, former prime minister Ehud Barak, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau, other dignitaries and a large representation of the Herzog family. The younger Herzog used the story for the purpose of accentuating the dire need for his father's temperate voice in Israel's current climate of chaos. Almost every speaker at the ceremony and subsequently at the Yad Herzog award ceremony at Beit Hanassi made some form of reference to his voice - be it its soothing effect during the Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars, when he broadcast daily to the nation, or its full-blown dramatic impact, when as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations he tore up the resolution equating Zionism with racism, declaring: "For us the Jewish People, this resolution based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value." "He stood with courage and pride against a hostile United Nations," said Olmert, noting that Herzog was emulating his father, Chief Rabbi Isaac Halevy Herzog, who had publicly torn up the infamous British White Paper of 1939, which had placed severe restrictions on the intake of Jews in what was then Palestine. Reviewing Chaim Herzog's illustrious and multi-faceted career, Olmert also said it was only natural that he should have become president. "He brought honor and glory to the state of Israel and to the presidency," Olmert said. It wasn't just the sound of his voice, with its soft Irish brogue, that people missed, but also the value of what he had to say. It was a voice that was able to explain and enlighten, said his son. It was a voice that pursued justice. It was a voice of leadership and statesmanship. It was a voice that at the end of World War II told the wretched survivors of Bergen-Belsen that a Jewish officer (in the British Army) had come from the land of Israel to liberate them. "We need that voice of hope to remind us why we are here," said Isaac Herzog.