Israel’s newly elected president, Isaac Herzog, has strong links to Ireland through his Irish-born father and grandfather, who lived in Ireland for nearly 20 years. The centre-left former leader of Israel’s Labour Party, who ran unsuccessfully against Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in the 2013 elections, was elected to the largely ceremonial office yesterday, 1 June, and will be officially inaugurated on 9 July.
Herzog’s father Chaim (1918-1997) also served two terms as Israeli president. He was born on Cliftonville Avenue in Belfast, the son of Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog (1888-1959), who served first as Rabbi of Dublin in 1919 and then as Chief Rabbi of Ireland between 1922 and 1936. He was a fluent Irish speaker and a prominent supporter of the First Dáil in 1919, which earned him the nickname the ‘Sinn Féin Rabbi.’ After the foundation of Israel he became that country’s first Chief Rabbi.