Updated: Apr 29, 2021
On March 22, 1983, Haim Herzog was elected as Israel's sixth President. Read below to learn more about this great leader's legacy!
Not many people know or remember this, but Herzog was born in Belfast, Ireland, and actually grew up in the city of Dublin. He was born into an ultra-orthodox Haredi family, and his father had even been appointed as the Chief Rabbi of Ireland, and later on as the Chief Rabbi of Israel as well.
After making Aliyah in 1935 and spending the year learning in some well-respected yeshivot, Herzog joined the Haganah in Jerusalem and participated in the defense of the city during the great riots of the time. He then left for law school studying at London and Cambridge universities, where he became a certified lawyer.
Now is where the real interesting parts begin.
Herzog was drafted into the British army, and as an Intelligence Officer, he participated in the invasion of Normandy, the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, and even participated in the interrogations of Heinrich Himmler.
During the War of Independence, Herzog participated in the battles to break through the siege on Jerusalem, and he slowly climbed the military ranks up until his retirement as a Major-General in 1962.
In 1972, after several years as a successful radio anchor, Herzog and his partners established the Herzog, Fox & Ne'eman Law Firm, which later became the biggest law firm in Israel. In a country where one out of every 128 people is a lawyer, (as of 2018, the highest rate per capita in the world!), we would say that's quite the achievement!
In the late 1970s, Herzog served as the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, where he made his famous speech criticizing the UN's decision to compare Zionism to racism. This speech was later recognized by a group of international historians as one of the 50 greatest speeches in history.
That's right, he's right up there with Churchill, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King.
In 1982, while serving a term as a Member of Knesset in Israel, Herzog suffered a severe heart attack, but being the fighter that he was, he quickly recuperated and bounced right back to business. The following year, Herzog retired from the Knesset, as he was elected to be Israel's sixth president. Herzog served as president for two full terms, up until 1993.
During his term, many major events occurred in Israel: The Bus 300 Affair, the National Unity Government with Peres and Shamir, Mivzah Moshe, the Demjanjuk Trials, the First Intifadah, and many many more.
He was also a prolific writer and authored six books before, during, and after his presidency, including his autobiography that was published, Living History, which was published shortly before his death in 1997.
On April 17th, 1997, Haim Herzog passed away at the age of 79 and was buried in the Great Leaders of the Nation’s Plot on Mount Herzl.