Ambassador Herzog , Senator Cardin, Senator Schumer, Minister Forer
Ambassador Herzog , Senator Cardin, Senator Schumer, Minister Forer Embassy of Israel, Shmulik Almany

Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog gave his first interview with an American news organization since his appointment on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

‘When we say ‘never again,’ it is not only that we don’t want such a horrendous phenomenon to recur. But it is the acknowledgment that something similar to that may recur,” Ambassador Herzog said in an exclusive interview with The Forward.

Herzog spoke about his family's efforts to rescue Jews and fight the Nazis during World War Two. His grandfather, former Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Herzog, embarked on a diplomatic campaign to rescue Jews in the early 1940s. After the war he travelled throughout Europe to find Jewish children who had been hidden in churches and Christian orphanages during the Holocaust, brining hundreds of them to Israel.

His father, Chaim Herzog, who later served as Israel's sixth president, volunteered for the British army and was part of the forces who liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Herzog described his father's experience at the camp, seeing the emaciated figures of the survivors and the bodies of the Nazis victims

“In his mind, what he saw in the war and the experience he had was a conclusion that ‘Never Again’ is not just a slogan but a belief that Jews need their own state and have to be strong enough so that nobody can do that to them again," he said.

Herzog added that Jews can never become complacent that another Holocaust could never happen to them again.

“When people say ‘no, it’s impossible – it cannot happen again,’ I’m very careful, I take that with a grain of salt.”

He said that US Jews cannot take their safety for granted either, and that more must be done to fight antisemitism from the left, the right, and Islamist antisemitism.

Two weeks ago, an Islamist extremist took four people hostage at a synagogue in Texas. The hostage taker believed that Jews had the power to secure the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist captured in Afghanistan before being convicted in the US and sentenced to 86 years in prison for attempting to murder an American army officer.

The hostages escaped after 11 hours thanks to the training of the congregation's spiritual leader, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker. FBI agents then entered the building and neutralized the terrorist.

Ambassador Herzog said that American leaders must find a situation in which Jews need security to go to synagogue unacceptable and show "zero tolerance" for antisemitism from all sources.

He concluded by calling on Jews everywhere to heed the words of his father: " Be proud in being a Jew, in our heritage, in our history, in our values, and our traditions.”