Isaac Herzog, former leader of the Labour Party, is one of two candidates to become the country’s next head of state. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of his Belfast-born father Chaim, who became President of Israel in 1983.
The vote in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, is due to take place today, June 2.
Isaac’s father Chaim Herzog is probably the most well-known Jewish person to come from Northern Ireland. He served as the sixth president of Israel between 1983 and 1993.
Born at Clifton Park Avenue in north Belfast in 1918, his family later emigrated to Palestine.
He fought in the British Army during World War Two, and went on to hold a number of positions in the newly created state of Israel in 1948, including ambassador to the United Nations (UN). He died in 1993.
And his father, Dr Isaac Herzog, was appointed chief rabbi of Ireland and later elected as chief rabbi of Israel.
The Belfast connections go even further; Isaac’s uncle, the late Abba Eban, lived off the Antrim Road as a child evacuee during the First World War. Eban became Israel’s foreign minister and ambassador in Washington.
Steven Jaffe, of NI Friends of Israel, noted that Isaac Herzog visited Belfast with his family in 2018 to celebrate the centenary of the birth of his father in the city. He visited the house on Cliftonpark Avenue where his father was born, and visited Stormont.
Mr Jaffe said: “The post of president is largely ceremonial. If elected, Herzog has pledged to ‘defend Israel’s good name in the family of nations’ and use his position as head of state to heal internal rifts.”
“It would be fabulous to have a second Herzog as president, as that would strengthen, still further, the connections between Israel and Northern Ireland,” Mr Jaffe added.
He noted that Isaac’s main rival is Miriam Peretz, who lost two sons as a result of the Arab-Israel conflict, and is a well-known Israeli educator on the subject of bereavement.
Northern Ireland historian Gordon Lucy reflected on Chaim Herzog’s life in the News Letter on the centenary of his birth in Belfast in 2018.
He noted that Chaim was the longest serving president of Israel and became head of Israeli military intelligence in 1948, a position he held until 1950 and again from 1959 to 1962. He retired from the Israeli Defence Force with the rank of major general in 1962 to practice law.
He was ambassador to the UN from 1975-78, was elected to the Knesset im 1981 and became President in 1983, elected elected unopposed for a second term in 1988.
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