Yad Chaim Weizmann

Politician

Dr. Chaim Weizmann

November 27,1874 - November 9,1952
18 Kislev 5635 – 21 Heshvan 5713

Statesman

Chaim Weizmann was a scientist and a diplomat, the leader of the Zionist Movement for a whole generation, and the first President of the State of Israel.  Weizmann was born in 1874 in Motal in White Russia (Belarus).  He studied Chemistry in Germany, and in 1904 was given a post in Manchester University.  In 1906, Weizmann married Vera Chatzman and the couple had two sons:  Benjamin (1907) and Michael (1916).

Weizmann was considered a master of negotiations, and as the person who persuaded the British Empire to issue the Balfour Declaration shortly before the British conquered the Land of Israel in November 1917.  This document, which states that "His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people", marks a turning point in Jewish history, and immediately made Weizmann the person most identified with the Zionist movement.  Weizmann achieved a significant breakthrough in organic chemistry, and some connect his scientific achievements with his political ones.  He established leading institutions in the field of higher education and research in Israel (The Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Sieff Institute in Rechovot, now called the Weizmann Institute of Science), based on his perception of Zionism as the fulfillment of political and intellectual independence.  Weizmann saw scientific activity as noble in itself, but also as having economic potential in the building of a modern economy.  He sought to establish friendly relations between the Zionists and the Arab nationalists, and for this purpose met Emir Feisal in 1918.  During World War II he recruited the Jewish hinterland in the Land of Israel on behalf of the British war effort against Germany, and fought to set up the Jewish Brigade.  He was active in founding the institutions of a democratic regime in the Zionist Movement and making the State of Israel an integral part of the international community.   

When the independent State of Israel was declared, Weizmann was appointed the President of the Provisional State Council.  In February 1949, when the first Knesset was convened, Weizmann was elected the first President of the State of Israel.  He served in this position, to which he was elected a second time in 1951, until his death in November 1952.

Further reading - complete biography of Chaim Weizmann.