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Aura Herzog, wife to one Israeli president and mother to a second, dies at 97

Politicians laud ‘pioneering’ woman who devoted herself to public service; she took part in Israel’s War of Independence and was a social and environmental activist

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

Aura Herzog, the mother of President Isaac Herzog and widow of Israel’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog, died Sunday night at the age of 97.

Prime Minister Naftali 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.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said Herzog “devoted her life to public and social activity for the people of Israel… May her memory be a blessing.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz called her “a pioneering woman…who worked for Israeli society and was a part of the generation that built the nation and to whom we are all grateful.”

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 the two married 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.

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.

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

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 new ambassador to the United States.

She will be buried alongside her late husband in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl national cemetery, beside Israel’s top former leaders.

Aura Herzog in 1983 (Sa’ar Ya’acov)

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