Chaim Azriel Weizmann

Chaim Azriel Weizmann (Hebrew: חיים עזריאל ויצמן – November 27, 1874November 9, 1952) was a Zionist leader, President of the World Zionist Organization, and the first President of the State of Israel. He was elected on February 1, 1949, and served until his death in 1952. Weizmann was also a chemist who developed a new process of producing acetone through bacterial fermentation. He founded the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

Early life and career

Weizmann was born in the small village of Motol (Motyli, now Motal') near Pinsk (Belarus, at that time part of Russian Empire). He graduated the University of Fribourg in Switzerland in 1899 with a degree in chemistry. He lectured in chemistry at the University of Geneva (1901-3) and later taught at the University of Manchester.

He became a British subject in 1910, and in World War I he was (1916-19) director of the British Admiralty laboratories. While a lecturer at Manchester he became famous for discovering how to use bacterial fermentation to produce large quantities of desired substances. He is considered to be the father of industrial fermentation. He used the bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum (the Weizmann organism) to produce acetone. Acetone was used in the manufacture of cordite explosive propellants critical to the Allied war effort (see Royal Navy Cordite Factory, Holton Heath). Weizmann transferred the rights to the manufacture of acetone to the Commercial Solvents Corporation in exchange for royalties.

Zionist political leader

Weizmann missed the first Zionist conference, held in 1897 in Basel, Switzerland, because of travel problems, but he attended each one thereafter. In 1902, he broke with Theodor Herzl and founded the Democratic Zionist Party. Beginning in 1903, he lobbied for the founding of the Hebrew University,
What is the significance of a Hebrew University? What is going to be its functions? Whence will it draw its students? What languages will it speak? It seems paradoxical that in a land with so sparse a population, in a land where everything still remains to be done ... we should begin by creating a centre of spiritual and intellectual development. But it is no paradox for those who know the soul of the Jew. ... We Jews know, however, that when our mind is given fullest play, when we have a centre for the development of Jewish counciousness, then coincedentally we attain the fulfillment of our material needs. ... schools of learning on one hand helped to maintain our national existence, and on the other blossomed forth for the benefit of mankind when once the walls of ghetto fell. The sages of Babylon and Jerusalem, Maimonides and the Gaon of Vilna, the lens polisher of Amsterdam and Karl Marx, Heinrich Heine and Paul Ehrlich, are some of the links in the long, unbroken chain of intellectual development.
A proposal which was adopted by the 11th World Zionist Conference in 1913. In 1904, Weizmann became a chemistry professor at the University of Manchester and soon became a leader among British Zionists. At that time, Prime Minister Arthur Balfour was a Conservative M.P. with a seat in Manchester, and the two met during one of Balfour's electoral campaigns. Balfour supported the concept of a Jewish state, but felt that there would be more support among politicians for a homeland in Uganda. Weizmann was credited later with persuading Balfour that the state should be established in the Jewish traditional land of Palestine Weizmann first visited Jerusalem in 1907, and while there, he helped organize the Palestine Land Development Company as a practical means of pursuing the Zionist dream. Although Weizmann was a strong advocate for a Jewish mandate in Palestine, he persuaded Jewish people not to wait for the mandate to come.
A state cannot be created by decree, but by the forces of a people and in the course of generations. Even if all the governments of the world gave us a country, it would only be a gift of words. But if the Jewish people will go build Palestine, the Jewish State will become a reality - a fact.

In 1917, he worked with Arthur Balfour to obtain the milestone Balfour Declaration, stating that the British government "views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". A founder of so-called synthetic Zionism, Weizmann supported grass-roots colonization efforts as well as higher-level diplomatic activity. Siding with neither Labour Zionism on the left nor Revisionist Zionism on the right, Weizmann was generally associated with the centrist General Zionists. In the 1917, expressed his view of Zionism in the following words,

We have [the Jewish people] never based the Zionist movement on Jewish suffering in Russia or in any other land. These suffering have never been the mainspring of Zionism. The foundation of Zionism was, and continues to be to this day, the yearning of the Jewish people for its homeland, for a national center and a national life.

On January 3, 1919, he and the future King Faisal I of Iraq signed the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement establishing relations between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. After 1920, he assumed leadership in the world Zionist movement, serving twice (1920-31, 1935-46) as president of the World Zionist Organization. In 1921, Weizmann went along with Albert Einstein for a fund-raiser to establish the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Concurrently, Weizmann devoted himself to the establishment of a scientific institute for basic research in the vicinity of his sprawling estate, in the town of Rehovot. Weizmann saw great promise in science as a means to bring peace and prosperity to the area. As stated in his own words :

"I trust and feel sure in my heart that science will bring to this land both peace and a renewal of its youth, creating here the springs of a new spiritual and material life. [...] I speak of both science for its own sake and science as a means to an end."
His efforts led in 1934 to the creation of the Daniel Sieff Research Institute, that was financially supported by an endowment by the Baron Israel Sieff in memory of his late son. Weizmann actively conducted research in the laboratories of this institute, primarily in the field of organic chemistry. In 1949 the Sieff Institute was renamed the Weizmann Institute of Science in his honor. Weizmann's success as a scientist and the success of the Institute he founded make him an iconic figure in the heritage of the Israeli scientific community today.

In 1936 he addressed the Peel Commission, set up by Stanley Baldwin, whose job it was to consider the working of the British Mandate of Palestine. The Commission published a report that, for the first time, recommended partition, but the proposal was declared unworkable and formally rejected by the government.

During World War II, he was an honorary adviser to the British Ministry of Supply and did research on synthetic rubber and high-octane gasoline. (Formerly Allied-controlled sources of rubber were largely inaccessible owing to Japanese occupation during World War II, giving rise to heightened interest in such innovations). Tragedy struck when his younger son Flight Lt Michael Oser Weizmann, serving as a pilot in the British Royal Air Force, was killed when his plane was shot down over the Bay of Biscay.

On the news of Moyne's death, Chaim Weizmann, who later became the first President of Israel, is reported to have said that the death was more painful to him than that of his own son.

Shmuel Katz, historian and former Etzel member, writes that in his opinion Weizmann ignored the fact that his son was killed as a fighter for the freedom of his children, "but Moyne paid with his life for his direct responsibility for the deaths of innocent men, women and children that their only crime was belonging to the same people of Weizmann". Katz also repeats that Moyne avidly objected the notion of Zionism, that he revealed total indifference to the fate of the Jews that could have been saved, and he repeats Moyne's statement of "what should I do with a million Jews?".

He met with United States President Harry Truman and worked to obtain the support of the United States for the establishment of the State of Israel. Weizmann became the first President of Israel in 1949. His nephew Ezer Weizman also became president of Israel. He is buried beside his wife, Vera, on the Weizmann estate, which is located on the grounds of Israel's premier science research institute, The Weizmann Institute of Science.

Published work

  • Chaim Weizmann (1949). Trial and Error: The Autobiography of Chaim Weizmann. Jewish Publication Society of America.

See also



Krane, Laurence, Chaim Weizmann 20 September 2007

External links


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