Aura Herzog, mother of the president and wife of a former president, passes at 97

Herzog will be buried next to her husband, the sixth president in the plot of the nation’s greats on Mount Herzl.

By Aryeh Savir/TPS

The President’s Office announced Monday morning the passing of the Aura Herzog, the mother of President Isaac Herzog and the wife of the late President Haim Herzog, Israel’s sixth president.

The President’s House stated that “Mrs. Aura Herzog, 97 years old at the time of her death, was a public figure and a prominent social and environmental activist for many years and the founder of the Council for a Beautiful Israel.”

She is also the mother of Ambassador Michael Herzog, Israel’s envoy to Washington.

Herzog will be buried next to her husband, the sixth president in the plot of the nation’s greats on Mount Herzl.

“The President’s House shares the family’s grief,” it stated.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett eulogized Herzog and stated that “together with the entire people of Israel, I received with sorrow the news of the passing of Aura Herzog, mother of President Isaac Herzog and wife of the late President Chaim Herzog”.

“Aura was a public figure and socially active woman who loved her people and her country. She lived modestly and raised a wonderful family while being constantly active on behalf of the public and society in Israel,” he stated.

“My deepest condolences go out to President Herzog and the entire Herzog family. May her memory be blessed,” he concluded.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “my wife Sara and I send heartfelt condolences to President Isaac Herzog and his entire family on the death of his mother, Aura Herzog.”

“Aura immigrated to Israel from Egypt, served as an officer in the War of Independence, and devoted her life to public and social activities for the citizens of Israel. She founded the Council for a Beautiful Israel, the first environmental organization in the country, initiated the World Bible Quiz, and founded the Yad Haim Herzog Association, to commemorate the work and legacy of her husband, the sixth President of the State of Israel.”

“Aura was a devoted wife and a wonderful mother to her four children. We send them a warm hug at this difficult time. May her memory be a blessing.”

Aura Herzog (née Ambache, acronym for ‘I Believe with Complete Faith’ in Hebrew) was born in Egypt to parents born in Jaffa and Motza. Her parents Leah and Simcha Ambache had four children. Her older sister, Suzy Ambache, was married to the late diplomat and former foreign minister Abba Eban.

Aura and Chaim Herzog had four children: Joel Herzog; Brig. Gen. (res.) Michael (Mike) Herzog, Israel’s ambassador in Washington DC; President Isaac Herzog; and Ronit Herzog, a clinical psychologist. They also had eleven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Her parents were expelled by the Turks during the First World War and reached Egypt from Jaffa. She grew up and was educated in Ismailiyah and Cairo and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics at Witwatersrand University in South Africa.

In 1946, at the end of her studies, she made aliyah to Israel and joined the Haganah. That year, she was elected to participate in the first class of the Jewish Agency’s diplomatic cadet school. In 1947 she married Chaim Herzog and accompanied him throughout his roles in the IDF and public life.

In the War of Independence, she served as an officer in the intelligence division and later served in the Science Corps, where she was seriously wounded in a terror attack on the National Institutions building in March 1948.

In 1950-1954 and in 1975-1978, Mrs. Herzog lived with her family in the United States when her husband served as the military attaché and Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Herzog served as the secretary-general of the committee for the celebration of the first decade of the State of Israel (1958), as part of which she spearheaded and initiated the Bible Quiz, which has taken place every year since.

She served as the director-general of the Council of Arts and Culture (1959-1968) and in 1969 founded the Council for a Beautiful Israel. In 1971 she published her book The Secrets of Hospitality about manners and customs.

In 1983-1993, her husband Chaim Herzog served as the Sixth President of the State of Israel. Aura continued to fulfill public roles and when Israel celebrated forty years of independence, she headed the “Israel Wears Clean” campaign.

Aura Herzog’s life’s work was the establishment and leadership of the Council for a Beautiful Israel, the first environmental organization in Israel, which she led for forty years in a volunteer capacity.

At the end of her husband’s term as the Sixth President of the State of Israel, she fulfilled various roles, including: Chairwoman of the Public Committee for Jubilee Events (1988), member of the Broadcasting Authority plenary, member of the public council of Mifal Hapayis, member of the board of governors of the Tel Aviv Museum, chairwoman of the Friends of Schneider Medical Center, and international president emeritus of the Council for a Beautiful Israel.

After the death of her husband Chaim Herzog in 1997, she founded and headed the Chaim Herzog Foundation to commemorate his work and legacy.