I don’t suppose too many people know that the sixth President of Israel, Chaim Herzog, was born and bred in Belfast.
He was, in fact, the son of Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, who was the first chief Rabbi of Ireland, from 1921 to 1936. He was born in Poland in 1888, and when he was ten his family settled in Leeds. He then studied at ten Sorbonne and the University of London, before becoming the Chief Rabbi of Belfast in 1916, becoming known as the Sinn Fein Rabbi (he was also fluent in Irish). In 1936, he migrated to Palestine, to become the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine and then Israel.
Chaim Herzog was born in 1918; at the age of 19 he emigrated to Palestine, where he became a member of Haganah, the Jewish self-defence force formed in reaction to the Arab revolt that began in 1936. In 1939, he went to study law at University College, London. In the war he joined the British army, taking part in the liberation of several concentration camps and interrogating Himmler.
He returned to Palestine in 1947. For the next 15 years he was a soldier, politician and diplomat: he was the head of army intelligence, a member of the Knesset and the military governor of the West Bank after the Six Day War. In 1975, he was appointed as Israeli ambassador to the UN. It was there he made his famous speech to the UN General Assembly, attacking General Assembly Resolution 3379, which asserted that ‘Zionism is Racism’.
In 1983, the Knesset elected him President; he would serve two terms. As such, he became the first Israeli President to make a state visit to Germany.
The blue plaque seen above was, very sadly, removed last year, following threats. When will some people grow up?