“I PRAY IN MY HEART THAT I MAY BE WORTHY OF THE POSITION”: MAGNIFICENT LETTER IN HEBREW FROM CHAIM WEIZMANN TO A MEMBER OF THE KNESSET, UPON BEING ELECTED ISRAEL’S FIRST PRESIDENT
WEIZMANN, Chaim. Typed letter signed. [Jerusalem]: March 19, 1949. Original letter, one leaf of presidential stationary, measuring 6-1/2 by 9 inches, typewritten on recto. $9000.
Extraordinary letter typewritten in Hebrew and signed by Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann. Written and signed in Hebrew.
The letter, written in Hebrew on the official stationery of the president of Israel, reads: “State of Israel. Office of the President. 18 Adar 5709. March 19, 1949. Dr. Chaim Weizmann. [To] Member of Knesset Dr. Zerah Wahrhaftig. Tel Aviv. Dear Member of Knesset. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your best wishes. The Zionist Organization and the People of Israel have blessed me with a high and lofty position and a great honor. This honor, though, is a weighty one at my age and in view of the state of my health. I pray in my heart that I may be worthy of the position, and that history will keep me from any quarrels and internal strife, which, most unfortunately, are frequent in postwar countries. With great appreciation, [signed] Chaim Weizmann. President of Israel. Copy: Secretariat of the Knesset.”
Chaim Weizmann’s importance in bringing about the establishment of the state of Israel cannot be overestimated. He was one of Israel’s most important statesmen, having used his skills in diplomacy to convince British Prime Minister Balfour of the importance of Palestine as a Jewish homeland, which resulted in the Balfour Declaration. “The Declaration, which was Weizmann’s primary achievement, was a turning point in modern Jewish history. The idea of restoring Jewish political nationhood had passed from fantasy into the world of politics. A leading diplomatic historian has described Weizmann’s role as ‘the greatest act of diplomatic statesmanship of the First World War… The spectacular nature of his achievement had made him the central figure in the public life of the Jewish people; he was recognized as such by Jews and non-Jews alike. His position in international life even conveyed a premonition of Jewish sovereignty. Heads of state, ministers, and high officials, behaved toward him as though he were already president of a sovereign nation equal in status to their own. He and they knew that this was not strictly true; but something in his presence and in their own historic imagination forbade them to break the spell.” In addition, “President Truman, in direct response to Weizmann’s letter, had authorized the recognition of Israel by the United States,” immediately after it had declared its independence on May 14, 1948, ensuring that many others in the United Nations would do so. Due to these, and numerous other diplomatic achievements on behalf of Israel, “in February 1949, the first elected parliament of Israel, meeting specially in Jerusalem, elevated Weizmann from the presidency of the Provisional State Council to the title of president of the State of Israel.” (Encyclopedia Judaica). Weizmann official assumed office on February 17, 1949. This letter, composed scarcely one month later, was printed so soon after the founding of the state of Israel that the official stationery lacks the familiar official emblem of the state of Israel (a menorah and olive branches) that would adorn all later stationery. Unfortunately, the concerns about his health that Weizmann voices in this letter would prove to be well-founded; he passed away in 1952, before the completion of his term of office. Weizmann wrote this letter to one of the Knesset’s most distinguished statesmen and intellectuals. Legal and religious scholar Rabbi Dr. Zerah Wahrhaftig emigrated to Israel in 1947, and very quickly became a political leader. He was one of the original signers of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, served in the Knesset from the founding of the State of Israel until 1981, served as Minister of Religions in the Prime Minister’s cabinet, led the National Religious Party, was a lecturer at Hebrew University, and helped to found Bar Ilan University.
Two round holes punched in margin, with number written in pencil. Faint creases from folding. A superb letter, with wonderful content and provenance.