Monday, 2 Aug 2021 - 24 of Av, 5781

Isaac Herzog sworn in as Israel’s 11th president

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He used the same 107-year-old Torah that his father Chaim Herzog used, which has long been in the family.

The role of president is largely ceremonial but following parliamentary elections he plays a key role in deciding who gets the mandate to form a government.

Isaac Herzog was sworn in as Israel’s 11th president this week, saying he would work to repair divisions within Israeli society.

The ceremony took place at the Knesset in Jerusalem and marked the end of Reuven Rivlin’s seven-year term. The ceremony began when Herzog was greeted by Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy in the Knesset plaza. He was received by a guard of honour and a 45-piece IDF band will play the national anthem, “Hatikvah.”

A former Labor Party leader and Jewish Agency Chairman, 60-year-old Isaac ‘Buji’ Herzog is the son of the sixth president of Israel, Chaim Herzog. He also served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.

He was sworn in using the same 107-year-old Torah that his father used in 1983. The bible is a family heirloom, over 100 years old.

In his inauguration speech, Herzog, who is succeeding Reuven Rivlin, pronounced that he will be a “president for all” while warning that Israel’s “common ethos and shared values are more fragile than ever.”

He said that “baseless hatred, polarization and division are exacting a very heavy price … the heaviest price is the erosion of our national resilience. My mission, the goal of my presidency, is to do everything to rebuild hope.”

In his parting speech, Rivlin also urged Israelis to come together as one and rebuild civilian unity.

“The Jewish state is not something to be taken for granted. A democratic state is not something to be taken for granted,” he said. “And there will be no Israel if it is not democratic and Jewish, Jewish and democratic, in the same breath.”

Herzog will not formally move into the president’s residence until after the observance of Tisha B’Av (July 17-18), the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, which is marked by a 25-hour fast. He is respecting the period of three weeks between 17 Tammuz and the ninth of Av, which is a time of mourning for the destruction of the ancient First and Second Temples, as well as other devastating events in Jewish history.

Isaac Herzog is the son of the sixth president of Israel, Chaim Herzog (pictured).

Ahead of taking the oath, yesterday Herzog prayed at the Western Wall and placed a note in the wall in which he wrote that he will “devote himself to unity among our people and true love for Israel”.

The role of president is largely ceremonial but following parliamentary elections he plays a key role in deciding who gets the mandate to form a government.

He also signs every law enacted by the Knesset and treaties and agreements with foreign countries that have been ratified by the Knesset.

The president also has the power to pardon or commute sentences. This could become relevant if Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is convicted in his ongoing corruption trial.

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