Today in History: Zalman Shazar

Today In 1963, Zalman Shazar became President of the State of Israel.

Shazar was born in the town of Mir, in th Russian Empire in 1889 (and the name Shazar is an acronym of his former name – Shneior zalman Robashov). As his name suggests, Shazar was born into a family of Chabad Hasidim; although Shazar was not religious, and was captivated mainly by Zionism, the Hebrew and Jewish culture that was imprinted on him from an early age influenced him strongly throughout his life and public activity. Shazar became a representative in the Zionist congresses, and visited the Land of Israel many times before his final immigration in 1924. He married Rachel Katznelson, after a brief affair with Rachel Blobestein (the famous poet), and had a daughter. In Israel, he became a noted publicist, editor of the newspaper Dabra, and co-founder of Am Oved, while at the same time he was a poet and historian. He was elected to the first Knesset and became the first Minister of Education and Culture. After the death of President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi in 1963, Schazar became the natural candidate of the Mapai party, winning by a majority of votes (during this period the presidency was more apolitical, and the position was given to intellectuals). Shazar held the position with dignity, was easily elected to a second term, and greatly influenced the Israeli spirit of his time; he was also the first president to live in the current president residence, and the first to go on state visits abroad. He finished his term in 1973 and died a year later.

Photo Source: Wikipedia

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