Shlomi Heski and Herzog
Shlomi Heski and Herzog Kobi Gideon/GPO

President Isaac Herzog spoke on Thursday at the state memorial for Israel's deceased former presidents and prime ministers. This year, the memorial was dedicated to the memory of the late former President Chaim Herzog and Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The ceremony was organized by the Public Council for the Commemoration of Deceased Presidents and Prime Ministers in the Prime Minister's Office.

President Herzog began his remarks by saying, "Today we pause our daily workflow to remember the contributions of those who led the State of Israel and made it the historical marvel unfolding before our eyes. We do this not for them, but for us. By invoking their memory, their words and their heritage, we seek to draw inspiration from these titans, for us and for those around us. Thus we understand better the responsibility placed on us and the ways in which we must continue marching in order to be faithful guardians of the precious trust that they have given us: the State of Israel."

In his speech, the President addressed the fighting spirit shared by his father, former President Chaim Herzog, and Prime Minister Menachem Begin, saying, "Both Menachem Begin and my father, Chaim Herzog, defended and fought for the resurrection of Israel in its land even before its establishment: Begin joined Anders Army’ (the “Free Polish Army”) in the Second World War and in time also fought the British as the head of the Irgun. My father joined the Haganah in the 1930s, before enlisting in the British Army during the Second World War."

"Presenting his first government, in late June 1977, Begin said: ‘Nobody gave us our liberty. We conquered it with our residual national strength, in the generation in which one third of our nation was exterminated and nobody came to its aid.’ And indeed, Begin fought for the People of Israel and the State of Israel, at great risk to himself and to his family. He did all of this for the realization of a generations-old dream."

"Begin continued to serve the nation from the Opposition and in time led the state and even brought about the signing of a peace treaty with our southern neighbor, Egypt. For many years, I quoted from his speeches as the Leader of the Opposition, with excitement, admiration, commitment, and deep identification. Begin became an exemplary symbol of statesmanlike conduct, both in opposition and as the prime minister."

President Herzog added, "Begin’s ferocity of fighting spirit for the sake of the Jewish People and its rebirth, and indeed his proud defense of the State of Israel in front of the family of nations, were the most important and fundamental common denominator between him and my father, Chaim Herzog, of blessed memory, whom we also recall today. My late father and Begin admired each other, respected each other, and also worked together—both when my father was the Ambassador to the United Nations and also when he was President."

President Herzog concluded by saying, "We need pride in the State of Israel like the air we breathe, just as we need a consciousness of purpose and belonging, a profound, basic sense that we are all part of something, of a single, marvelous, inspirational story called the State of Israel. This was the legacy of Menachem Begin and Chaim Herzog, of blessed memory. May we climb upwards and reach their rank; may their character be interwoven into our deeds. May the memory of Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Chaim Herzog be preserved in the nation’s heart forevermore."

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said, "The test facing us is perfectly clear: we are trying to hold hands together, and it's very tough. There are those pulling with all their strength in one direction and others pulling in another direction, and our test is to look at the good of the State of Israel. To do what is good for Israel. I am optimistic. I see the wonderful economic growth, the joint work and the progress in the war on crime in Arab society, I see education - I see so many nice areas of activity. With God's help, we are building on the shoulders of the giants on this list and we shall succeed. May our predecessors' memories be blessed forevermore."

As every year, prizes were awarded by the President and the Prime Minister to researchers for their work in fields related to these figures. The prize committee, headed by Prof. Aryeh Naor, comprised public officials, relatives of the leaders, and representatives of the Public Council for the Commemoration of Deceased Presidents and Prime Ministers.

This year’s list of prize laureates:

▪️ Shlomi Heski, co-editor of Jewish Warrior: Chaim Herzog, Soldier and Commander, a book that sheds light on historical events for the general public, directly commemorating the persona, work, and thought of President Chaim Herzog.

▪️ Dr. Moshe Fuksman, author of 'Mahapach!': The Israeli 1977 Political Upheaval, a book about the early years of the Begin premiership and its impact on Israeli society, directly commemorating Begin's life and work.

▪️ Gabriel Emanuel, author Mr. Begin, an educational play about the fascinating world of Menachem Begin, who dedicated his life to the liberty and security of the State of Israel. A voluntary endeavor by the playwright to commemorate Menachem Begin.

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