JERUSALEM (May. 24)
Prof Ephraim Katzir took the oath of office at a festive Knesset ceremony here this evening to become Israel’s fourth President. The 57-year-old biophysicist from the Weizmann Institute of Science kept both of his hands on a Bible as he was sworn in by Knesset Speaker Israel Yeshayahu. In his inaugural-address he called for a blend of the knowledge of the sources of Judaism with a modern concept of the world.”
The entire Knesset was present for the ceremonies and the public and VIP galleries were packed Among the onlookers were Premier Golda Meir and former Premier David Ben Gurion. Israel’s outgoing President, Zalman Shazar, escorted his successor into the Knesset chamber after both reviewed an honor guard outside the Knesset building. As they entered, two Army chaplains and a rabbi blew three long shofar blasts. Shazar spoke briefly, referring to his successor as Dear brother and blessed of God, chosen of our people.” He prayed that President Katzir’s term would witness the achievement of peace that has eluded his three predecessors.
Yeshayahu ended the inauguration ceremony with the words, “Long Live the President.” They were repeated by the throng in the chamber as it rose to sing the national anthem, Hatikva. The inauguration was broadcast live on television and radio.
SUBLIME VALUES BEYOND SCIENCE
President Katzir is the second distinguished scientist to be elected Israel’s Chief of State and in his inaugural speech he quoted his mentor, the late Dr. Chaim Weizmann who was Israel’s first President: “I worked all my life and strove to make science and research the basis of our national enterprise. But I knew full well that there are beyond science sublime values…of righteousness and justice, of brotherhood and peace.”
He dwelt on the importance of science and technology in Israel but also warned of their dangers-pollution, ecological damage, tension and noise, and stressed the need to rise above science. He quoted his late brother, Prof. Aharon Katzir-Katchalsky, who was killed in the Lod Airport massacre a year ago: “There is no existence for us without the moral and humane values that are the very foundation of the State of Israel.”
The new President urged close links with diaspora Jewry. “They are our allies, a fount of inspiration and brotherly aid,” he said. At another point in his speech he referred to aliya as “the core of our strivings” and declared, “Let us not rest until every Jew who wants to come is free to join us.” He-also referred to Israel’s social problems and challenges, saying that “Many children receive neither the care nor the education they deserve…Communal fragmentation and social polarization must be reduced and the living standards of the underprivileged must be raised.”
Although the office of President is largely ceremonial and divorced from politics, President Katzir, the youngest man ever to hold it, is expected to be more active in national affairs than any of his predecessors. Addressing the National Conference on the Role of Cooperative and Public Economies in Democratic Societies at Kibbutz Naan the night before his inauguration, he said that his election would not end his close identification with the labor movement.