Herzog Marks White House Appearance with a Blessing
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Herzog Marks White House Appearance with a Blessing

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Chaim Herzog marked the first state visit by a president of Israel to the United States by reciting the traditional Jewish prayer of “shehecheyanu” at a White House ceremony preceding his hour-long meeting with President Reagan Tuesday.

“At this moment as I stand here as the president of a country born of the prayers of a nation over the centuries and a 2,000-year-old struggle against adversity, and view this event in true perspective against the background of our long history, I cannot but give expression to the age-old Jewish prayer,” he said.

Herzog then recited in Hebrew and English, “thanks to the Almighty for having kept us alive and maintained us to reach this time.”

The ceremony was held in the East Room of the White House because the heavy rain here precluded the traditional South Lawn welcome for foreign heads of state.

Reagan also noted the “historic” occasion, pointing out that Israel was observing its 40th anniversary and reminding the audience that the United States was the first country to extend it diplomatic recognition.

Both presidents pointed out that this occasion coincided with the anniversary of Kristallnacht, on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, when Jewish synagogues, schools, homes and stores were attacked by the Nazis in Germany. Reagan also spoke of the “obscene” resolution equating Zionism with racism adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Nov. 10, 1975.

Reagan observed that in 1938, there was no Israel to protect Jewish interests, but in 1975, Israel and the Jewish people were defended at the United Nations by Herzog, then its ambassador there, as well as by the United States ambassador, who at the time was Daniel Patrick Moynihan, now a Democratic U.S. senator representing New York.

Later, in an address to a joint session of both houses of Congress, Herzog thanked the American legislators for adopting a resolution urging the United States to support efforts to get the United Nations to rescind the “Zionism is racism” resolution. A similar resolution was adopted in Australia before his state visit there.


Both when Herzog entered the House of Representatives chamber and when he finished his address, he was greeted with tumultuous applause from an audience made up of senators and representatives or members of their staff, many foreign ambassadors and several members of the Cabinet, including Secretary of State George Shultz and Army Lt. Gen. Colin Powell, Reagan’s newly named national security adviser.

House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Texas) and Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.), who presided over the joint session, both mispronounced Herzog’s first name as “Shame” in their introductions.

At the White House, the two presidents stressed the common democratic values shared by Israel and the United States and their commitment to achieving peace in the Middle East.

“We share the conviction that Israel can be secure and realize its full promise and genius only when security and lasting peace can be achieved,” Reagan stressed.

Reagan added that the effort for peace must also “find a just solution for the Palestinian people.”


Herzog praised Reagan’s efforts to help achieve peace in the Middle East which he stressed Israel has sought “since we held out our hand to our Arab neighbors in our Declaration of Independence.”

He told Reagan that “Israel is prepared, as you are well aware Mr. President, to move forward, with your involvement, to a further phase of this process.”

Reagan stressed that Israel and the United States are committed to human rights for all “This is why America has championed the cause of Soviet Jews in their struggle for religious freedom, and right, if they wish, to emigrate,” the president said.

Noting that Americans rejoiced at the “release” of Natan Sharansky, Ida Nudel and Vladimir Slepak, Reagan said “many others, less well-known” also have the right to emigrate.

The president added, “I pledge to you that we will persevere in our efforts to persuade the Soviet Union to meet its international obligations under the Helsinki accords, not just to Soviet Jews, but to all the citizens of the Soviet Union.”

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