President Isaac Herzog was formally sworn in as the 11th president of Israel on Wednesday, July 7, at the Knesset, replacing Reuven Rivlin.
Upon accepting the presidency, Herzog pledged to “lower the tone, reduce the flames and calm things down” in Israel, despite the many divides in the Jewish, democratic state.
“I will set out to complete the task every morning to be the president for all,” Herzog said. “In normal times, this task would almost sound naive. Unfortunately, however, these are not normal times. These are days when statesmanship has been swept away by polarization; days in which the
unifying ethos and the shared values are more fragile than ever.”
Herzog noted the two-and-a-half years of stormy election campaigns that followed one another, in what he called an unprecedented political crisis in the State of Israel.
“It has been a crisis which, as the history of modern times teaches us, has managed in the past to destroy nations that were much more ancient and established than the young State of Israel, which is only 73 years old,” he said.
Herzog said he would “embark on a journey between the lines of the rifts and breaks of Israeli society” and “aim to be a unifier amid the differences, the bridge between the tears.”
In his final speech to the Knesset, Rivlin broke out in tears and warned Herzog that nothing in Israel can be taken for granted. Herzog thanked Rivlin for his years of service in his address.
“You knew how to make your love of this country infectious for its sons and daughters,” Herzog told Rivlin. “You represented Israel with great respect in the family of nations, including during the last month of your tenure. You painfully identified the breaking points in Israeli society.
“You placed a mirror before us, even if its reflection was not always pleasing for all of us.”
Herzog wished the new government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett success, and also made a point of wishing well to the opposition, under Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, against whom he ran unsuccessfully for prime minister.
Rivlin, who spoke before Herzog, congratulated the incoming president. “Your Excellence, the 11th president, my good friend Isaac, I am placing in your safekeeping this dear people,” he said.
After his swearing-in ceremony at the Knesset and upon his arrival at the President’s Residence on Wednesday evening, he found on the desk in his office a gracious letter from his predecessor Reuven Rivlin. In his letter, Rivlin wrote that Herzog will discover what a wonderful privilege he has been granted. Rivlin was certain that after years of public service, Herzog already knows “what a wonderful country we have and what wonderful people live among us.” Nonetheless, wrote Rivlin, “Believe me, you don’t really know yet. In the shadow of disagreements and the divisions you will find brave people who don’t talk about ‘together,’ he added, “they simply live it—day by day, hour by hour.”
Herzog was sworn in using the same Bible used to swear in his father, Israel’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog. The Bible belonged to the new president’s grandmother, Sarah, in Glasgow. Her husband, Israel’s future chief rabbi, Isaac Halevy Herzog, took it to Europe to rescue Jewish children from orphanages and monasteries after the Holocaust.
After reviewing an IDF honor guard and bowing to the national flag, Herzog moved on along the Meah Shearim Plaza, to where Rivlin was waiting to welcome him at the entrance to the main hall.
They then had a private meeting with senior advisers, returned to the main reception hall to make statements, after which Rivlin departed and a new era was ushered in.
By Gil Hoffman/Jpost.com