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‘A pioneer’: Aura Herzog, wife of one president, mother of a second, laid to rest

In eulogy, Isaac Herzog says his mother’s great loves were her family, Israel and ‘good taste, aesthetics… and understanding the big wide world’

President Isaac Herzog attends the funeral of his mother, Aura Herzog, at Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem, January 12, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog attends the funeral of his mother, Aura Herzog, at Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem, January 12, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Hundreds of mourners gathered at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery on Wednesday to pay their last respects to Aura Herzog — the mother of President Isaac Herzog and widow of Israel’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog — who died earlier this week at the age of 97.

A wide range of officials attended the ceremony, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife, Gilat, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, Mossad chief David Barnea, Shin Bet head Ronen Bar, and many ministers, lawmakers and religious leaders.

“Mother, you had three great loves in your life. First of all, your love of our father and the family. You were his source of strength and his partner on his extraordinary life journey,” the president said during his eulogy.

“Your second love was the State of Israel,” he continued, hailing his mother as “a pioneer.”

“For you, the state was above all else; hence your wonderful suitability — yours and father’s — for all your roles, because your mission, your shared mission, for our nation and our state, was above all else.”

He said his mother’s other great love was “good taste, aesthetics, warm and high-quality hospitality, cordially welcoming guests, and understanding the big wide world.”

She was buried alongside her late husband in the Great Leaders of the Nation section of the cemetery, alongside Israel’s top former leaders.

File: President Chaim Herzog and his wife Aura during a visit to West Berlin in 1987 (Nati Harnik)

Earlier this week, Bennett eulogized Herzog as “a public figure and social activist who loved her people and country. She lived humbly and raised a family to be proud of, while constantly working for the public and Israeli society.”

He sent his “deepest condolences” to her family.

File: President Chaim Herzog and his wife Aura during a visit to Toledo, Spain, in 1992 (Sa’ar Ya’acov)

Herzog (née Ambash) was born in Egypt after her parents were expelled from Jaffa by the Turks during World War I. She completed a degree in math and physics in South Africa before immigrating to Israel in 1946 and joining the Hagana, the defense organization that was the precursor to the Israel Defense Forces.

She then joined a diplomatic course, met Chaim Herzog and married him in 1947. During the War of Independence she served as a soldier in Military Intelligence and later in the Science Corps. She was seriously wounded in a bombing attack in 1948 at Jerusalem’s National Institutions House.

Ronit, Michael, Isaac and Yoel Herzog at the funeral of their mother, Aura, at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on January 12, 2022. (GPO)

Herzog served in various public positions over the years. After being one of the organizers of Israel’s 10th anniversary celebrations, she helped found the International Bible Contest, which is still held annually on Independence Day.

In 1968 she founded the Council for a Beautiful Israel, a nonprofit environmental group that remains active to this day, and led it for 40 years.

From 1983 to 1993, Chaim Herzog served as Israel’s sixth president, during which time she continued her communal work. After her husband’s death in 1997, Herzog led efforts to commemorate his life and work.

The couple had four children. One is Isaac, the country’s current president, and another, Michael, is Israel’s current ambassador to the United States.

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