President Weizmann is sworn in as the first President
President Weizmann and the first Government of Israel
|The first President of Israel, Professor Chaim Weizmann – scientist and statesman – was among the leaders who were instrumental in the establishment of the State of Israel.
Born in 1874 in a small town in Russia, Chaim Weizmann received a combined Jewish and secular education. He pursued scientific studies in Germany and Switzerland and became involved in Zionist activities. In 1904 he immigrated to Great Britain and began his scientific career as a research chemist at Manchester University. During World War I he was acclaimed for his discovery of a method to produce synthetic acetone and came into contact with the "movers and shakers" of British society, among them Lord Balfour and Winston Churchill.
Endowed with great personal charm and eloquence, Weizmann became the spokesman of the Zionist cause in British political and intellectual circles. His efforts culminated in the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, in which the British government expressed its sympathy for Zionist aims in Palestine. The declaration set the stage for the Mandate over Palestine which was granted to Britain by the League of Nations in 1922.
Throughout his life, Weizmann combined scientific endeavor with intensive involvement in Zionist activities. As a leader of the World Zionist Movement for many years, he was highly influential in formulating Zionist strategy and succeeded in broadening support for the Zionist movement and in mobilizing Jewish capital to further Zionist endeavors in Palestine, then under British mandate.
Meeting with President Truman in March 1948, Weizmann impressed upon the President the importance of establishing a Jewish state. This was undoubtedly one of the factors for the speedy recognition of the State of Israel by the United States.
One of the first acts of the Provisional Government of Israel was to appoint Chaim Weizmann as President of the Provisional Council of the State. In February 1949 – a month after Israel’s first general elections – a special session of the Knesset elected him the first President of the State of Israel. After the swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem on February 16, Weizmann’s home in Rehovot became the official residence of the President of the State of Israel.
In April 1949 President Weizmann visited the United States. Met by crowds of record-breaking size, he mobilized an unprecedented $23 million in contributions for the State of Israel and for the fledgling scientific research facility which now bears his name – the Weizmann Institute of Science.
A man of action all his life, President Weizmann was disappointed by the mainly ceremonial role assigned to the President. However, his personal relationships with key figures in British political circles were instrumental in the recognition of Israel by Britain – de facto in January 1949 and de jure in April 1950.
By 1950, President Weizmann had to curtail his activities due to ill health, but he continued to receive foreign dignitaries and closely follow current events. He was re-elected to a second term in November 1951 (at the time the term of the President was directly linked to that of the Knesset) and was sworn in at his residence in Rehovot on November 25.
Very ill for most of his last year of life, the first President of the State of Israel, Professor Chaim Weizmann, died on November 9, 1952, and was buried, according to his wish, in the garden of his house, today part of the campus of the Weizmann Institute of Science.