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From Eire, with Pride

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Belfast-born Chaim Herzog who was elected President of Israel yesterday, has become a media hero in Ireland where his father, the late Isaac Halevi Herzog, served as Chief Rabbi for many years.

Kudos were heaped on the new Israeli chief of state who, Irishmen say, speaks Hebrew with a Dublin brogue. Conor Cruise O’Brien, a former member of the Eire Cabinet, said yesterday that his “heart overflows with pride.” Addressing the annual dinner of the Anglo-Israel Association, O’Brien recited a special Irish greeting to Herzog who, he recalled, spoke Gaelic better than he did himself.

“Beir Bua Agus Beannacht go H-uachtaran Israel” (“I wish a triumph and benediction to the President of Israel”) declared O’Brien in the Gaelic tongue. David Kimche, Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, who was present, suggested lightheartedly that Herzog should try to arbitrate the Irish problem.

‘LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD’

“Local boy makes good” was the headline in one Dublin newspaper, recalling the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, America’s first Irish Catholic President in 1960. The Irish Press set about interviewing people who knew Herzog as a youth. One of them. Judge Hubert Wine, president of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland who was Herzog’s classmate at Dublin’s Wesley College, recalled: “He was a realistic sort of guy, a debater in the school and I think he played soccer for the school.”

An editorial in the same newspaper said that “Ireland can take vicarious pride” in Herzog’s election. “Whatever the domestic considerations in Israel, Mr. Herzog’s election will be seen here at home simply in terms of another notable success abroad by an Irish exile,” the editorial said.

The Irish Times was less sentimental. It referred to the strained relations between Israel and Eire over Dublin’s Middle East policy and observed that Herzog, as “a hard-line pragmatic politician” offers “no hint of sentimentality about his Irish origins” and is not likely to allow them “to color his attitudes to currently evolving Irish policies on the Middle East.”

But the paper also recalled an interview with Herzog published a decade ago in which the then Israeli soldier and diplomat was quoted as saying that in Palestine after World War II “The British were bastards and they were incompetent bastards.”

Such sentiments doubtlessly endear him in the hearts of Irish patriots. The newspaper recalled further-that the Irish nationalist leader, Eammon De Valera once visited the Herzog family home in Dublin; and that Herzog, when a military attache at the Israel Embassy in Washington, was once deputized as an honorary Irish military attache at a St. Patrick’s Day reception.

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