Israel’s former president, Ephraim Katzir, dies


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s fourth president, Ephraim Katzir, who accepted Golda Meir’s resignation after the Yom Kippur War, has died.

Katzir, an internationally renowned biophysicist, died Saturday. He was 93. Katzir served as president from 1973, the Yom Kippur War, to 1978, shortly after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visited the Jewish State. He returned to his beloved scientific work after his term in office.

He was born in Kiev in 1916 to Yehuda and Tzila Katchalski and made aliyah to Palestine in 1925. After completing his Ph.D. in biochemistry and organic chemistry in 1941, he went on to study at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Columbia University and Harvard University.

He and his brother, Aharon, developed new types of explosives to supplement the Jewish paramilitary Haganah’s stockpile. Following the War of Independence, he joined the newly founded Weizmann Institute.

Katzir was awarded the Israel Prize in 1959 and received the Japan Prize in 1985. In 1996, the former president was selected as the first Israeli to be invited to join the American Academy of Sciences. He also won the Weizmann Prize, the Linderstrom Land Gold Medal, the Hans Krebs Medal, the Tchernikhovski Prize for scientific translations, the Alpha Omega Achievement Medal and the Engineering Foundation’s International Award in Enzyme Engineering.

He was a visiting professor at Harvard University, Rockefeller University, the University of California at Los Angeles and Battelle Seattle Research Center.

At the start of Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Katzir:  "He was a rare combination of personal ability and public mission. He divided his life between science and security, between voluntarism and education, between achievements and modesty. He was a very, very modest man. His life was one of struggles, challenges, successes and accomplishments, all of which were for the good of the State of Israel. Well before he became president, he had built an important layer in our national life in this country. As president, he continued this special combination and brought his many abilities and modesty to the institution of the presidency. The State of Israel and its citizens have lost one of their dearest sons, a man who did everything for the good of the nation."

He is survived by a son, Meir, and a nephew.

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