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Theodor Herzl (1860-1904)

Theodor Herzl

  • Full Name: Theodor Herzl, born as Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl
  • Profession:
  • Nationality: Austro-Hungarian
  • Relevance to Palestine: Considered the father of modern political Zionism, Theodor Herzl founded the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland which later became the World Zionist Organization. Throughout his life, Herzl worked to promote the idea of a Jewish nation and combat anti-Semitism.

Chaim Weizmann (1874 – 1952)

Chaim Weizmann

  • Full name: Chaim Azriel Weizmann
  • Profession: Chemist
  • Nationality: British and Israeli
  • Religion: Jewish
  • Relevance to Palestine: First President of Israel from 1949 to 1952.

Chaim Weizmann was born in Russia, the third of fifteen children. He lived in a humble family in a strict Jewish upbringing.

In 1891, Weizmann left Russia to study chemistry in Germany and Switzerland and obtained a Ph.D. He made money by selling several patented discoveries, stemming from his organic chemistry research.

Throughout his student and teaching years, Weizmann became a Zionist politician. In June 1918, Weizmann traveled to southern Transjordan to meet Amir Faisal of Hejaz to negotiate cooperation between Jews and Arabs. They met again while signing a written agreement called the Faisal – Weizmann agreement in the Paris Peace Conference in Versailles (1919). In 1920, he was present at the San Remo conference of the Allied Powers where the Balfour Declaration was signed, confirmed, and the Mandate of Palestine was handed to Great Britain. This was the year Weizmann who was president of the English Zionist Federation became the head of the World Zionist Organization. He spent the years later rallying for Zionism, even though Britain was facing issues because of Arab nationalism in Palestine.

In early 1948, Weizmann persuaded the United States president, Harry Truman, to recognize the newly proclaimed state of Israel on May 14 and loan it $100,000,000. Weizmann became president of the Provisional Sate Council and later on, in February 1949, the first president of the State of Israel. He ruled to his death from an illness until 1952.

During his presidency, Israel was admitted into the United Nations on   May 4, 1919, a life goal Weizmann had for the state. In June 1949, he gave up his British citizenship for an Israeli one. On his seventy-fifth birthday on November 27, 1949, Israel gave him the title of “father” with an eighteen-gun salute.

New York Times