The Israeli President
The Israeli presidency is largely a ceremonial role.
The incumbent president makes special efforts to disseminate information on the history of the Jewish communities of which Israel's population is composed. He displays particular interest in social relations among population groups and strives to improve them, working with a broad, diverse spectrum of communities: religious and non-religious, different ethnic groups, countries of origin, political orientation, etc. All such efforts are intended to promote dialogue, understanding, and tolerance in Israeli society.
State and Public Duties
The president also performs many state and public duties not prescribed by law, e.g., promoting public associations and agencies and hosting official delegations and guests. Past presidents as well as the incumbent have turned the official president's residence into an emblem of Jewish national and cultural unity. It houses the Diaspora Research Group, the President's Fund (assistance in special cases of need), and the Amos Fund (to encourage scholars and authors and the publication of special books).
The presidency is a round-the-clock job. In addition to his ceremonial duties, the president spends many hours meeting personalities from Israel and overseas in order to acquaint himself at first-hand with the issues and topics that preoccupy Israeli society and foreign relations. The president is attentive to the people's concerns, achievements, joys, and distress. Occasionally he expresses his positions on various matters, encourages those engaged in important activities, and warns against phenomena that have no place in Israeli society. With his sensitivity, attentiveness, and accessibility, the president can feel the country's pulse and serve all citizens as an address and source of support.
Israel's former presidents have included Chaim Weizmann, the first president (Feb. 17, 1949 - Nov. 9, 1952), a public figure and chemist; Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the second president (Dec. 12, 1952 - Apr. 23, 1963), a member of the Second Aliyah, public figure, and historian of Jewish communities; Zalman Shazar, the third president (May 21, 1963 - May 24, 1973, author, political figure, and Jewish historian; Ephraim Katzir, the fourth president (May 24, 1973 - May 28, 1978), a renowned biochemist and biophysicist; Yitzhak Navon, the fifth president (May 29, 1978 - May 5, 1983), politician, statesman, educator, and author; Chaim Herzog, the sixth president (May 5, 1983 - May 12, 1993), general, diplomat, statesman and attorney; Ezer Weizman, the seventh President, air force general, politician, businessman (May 13, 1993 - July 12, 2000), Moshe Katzav, the eighth president (August 1, 2000 – July 1, 2007) and Shimon Peres (July 15, 2007 – present).
The president's official residence is situated in a central Jerusalem neighborhood, one of the city's oldest and loveliest. The structure includes the residential quarters for the president and his family, the president's bureau, a banquet hall, a synagogue, and a smaller facility for receptions and sundry activities. The garden, surrounding the residence with a profusion of indigenous flora, also serves as a venue for receptions and public events. The residence abounds with objets d'art (paintings, rugs, sculpture), and with displays of archaeological and ethnographic finds, Judaica, ancient books, maps, etc.
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