December 10, 1952
At the end of the traditional thirty-day mourning period for Israel’s first President Chaim Weizmann, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi is inaugurated as Israel’s President in a Knesset ceremony. Ben-Zvi, then 68, was elected by the Knesset on December 8th on the third ballot of voting receiving sixty-two votes and defeating Rabbi Mordechai Nurock who received forty-two votes and Yitzhak Gruenbaum who received five. 112 of the Knesset’s 120 members voted (five ballots were left blank). The third ballot was necessary because no candidate reached the necessary threshold of sixty-one votes in the first two rounds.
Entering the Knesset as two shofars were blown, Ben-Zvi was inaugurated by Knesset Speaker Joseph Sprinzak (shown in the photo). “I, Yitzhak, the son of Zvi Ben -Zvi, pledge my loyalty to the State of Israel and its laws and faithfully to fulfill my duties as President of the State.” After delivering a speech in which he praised his predecessor, the new President departed for a review of a parade in his honor.
Ben-Zvi was born in Ukraine and had made aliyah in 1907 becoming one of the leaders of the Poalei Zion (Workers of Zion) Party and early labor movements in the yishuv. He was active in Jewish self-defense in the yishuv and was one of the founders of both Bar Giora and Hashomer, groups of defenders and guards for Jewish settlements.
He held leadership positions in many of the early political and social organizations including serving as Chairman of the Va’ad Leumi (the Yishuv Executive Committee) in 1931 and as its President in 1945. A delegate to many Zionist Congresses, he went on public missions to countries of the Middle East including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Persia (Iran) in 1935 and visited most European countries to promote the Yishuv and Zionist causes. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence in May 1948.
Shortly after Weizmann passed away, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion reached out to Albert Einstein to see if he would be interested in becoming Israel’s second President. After being turned down by the scientist, Ben-Gurion and other leaders in Mapai turned their support to Ben-Zvi’s candidacy. Ben-Zvi would serve three terms as President of Israel until his death in April 1963.
Photo Credit: Yitzhak Ben-Zvi being inaugurated as President of Israel by Knesset Speaker Joseph Sprinzak.