Isaac Hertzog was sworn in as Israel’s 11th president on Wednesday, following in his father’s footsteps and assuming the honorary title of “Citizen Number One” at a time when the nation is deeply divided.
The former Labor Party leader took his oath of office with his hand on the 107-year-old family Bible his father, Chaim Hertzog, used when he was sworn in as Israel’s 6th president in 1983. The Bible has made it through several wars and was a wedding gift to his grandmother from her father.
During his acceptance speech, Hertzog said, “My mission, the goal of my presidency, is to do everything to rebuild hope. Baseless hatred, polarization, and division are exacting a very heavy price…the heaviest price is the erosion of our national resilience.”
While the executive power in Israel rests with the prime minister and the president’s role is primarily ceremonial, Hertzog urged the government to remember its obligations to the minorities in Israeli society. He called for more assistance to combat crime, mafia, and violence plaguing many Arab communities.
Hertzog won more votes for president than any other candidate in the history of the young nation. Hertzog, an attorney by profession, and most recently, the head of the Jewish Agency, comes from a family in service to Israel. His grandfather, Isaac Hertzog, was Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi. In addition to his father’s service in government and in the military, his brother and an aunt have also served in leadership or influential roles in the nation.
Before the ceremony Wednesday, Hertzog visited the Western Wall, where he promised to devote himself to “unity among our people and true love for Israel.”
The presidential term in Israel is for seven years.