Son of Belfast man elected President of Israel in Knesset, Isaac Herzog follows in footsteps of father Chaim Herzog

The son of a Belfast man has been elected as Israel’s eleventh president, with 87 votes of the Knesset’s 120.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 11:37 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 11:48 am
Isaac Herzog, son of Belfast man and former Israeli President Chaim Herzog, visited the city of his father's birth in 2018. Seen here is giving an address at Stormont.
Isaac Herzog, son of Belfast man and former Israeli President Chaim Herzog, visited the city of his father's birth in 2018. Seen here is giving an address at Stormont.

Isaac Herzog, former leader of the Labour Party, was one of two candidates to become the country’s next head of state.

He follows in the footsteps of his Belfast-born father Chaim, who became President of Israel in 1983.

The vote took place today, June 2.

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Newly elected Israeli president Isaac Herzog with his family visiting the house on Cliftonpark Avenue, Belfast where his father was born in 1918.

The post of president is largely ceremonial. Herzog had pledged to “defend Israel’s good name in the family of nations” and use his position as head of state to heal internal rifts.

His 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.

Steven Jaffe, of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, said: “We are delighted that the new President of the State of Israel comes from a family with deep Belfast roots, who greatly appreciates his family’s history and traditions.

“Isaac Herzog was deeply touched by his visit to Belfast in 2018 on the centenary of his father’s birth. For all those who value strong and friendly relations between Northern Ireland and Israel  - and we know there is a huge number of people who do - this is great news.”

Banners from NI Friends of Israel showing the strong links between the Herzog family and Northern Ireland.

Mr Herzog, 60, is a former head of Israel’s Labour Party and opposition leader who unsuccessfully ran against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the 2013 parliamentary elections.

He is scion of a prominent Zionist family.

Mr Herzog has served as head of the Jewish Agency, a nonprofit that works closely with the government to promote immigration to Israel, for the past three years since resigning from parliament.

Given his deep ties to the political establishment, he was widely seen as the favourite to win.

Ms Peretz, 67, was seen as a more conservative, nationalist candidate.

She moved to Israel from Morocco as a child and has worked as a teacher, educator and lecturer on Judaism, Zionism and grief.

Two of her sons died serving in the Israeli military.

In 2018 she was awarded the Israel Prize, the country’s top award, for lifetime achievement.

Mr Herzog’s father, Chaim, was 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.

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