Ephraim Katzir, Fourth President of Israel

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Ephraim Katzir, Fourth President of Israel

Also Known As: "Froyke"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Kiev, Kyiv, Ukraine
Death: Died in Rehovot, Israel
Cause of death: Natural causes at the age of 93
Place of Burial: Rehovot, Israel
Immediate Family:

Son of Yehuda Katchalski and Celia Tsila Katchalski
Husband of Nina Katzir - Kachalski
Father of Nurit Katzir; <private> Katzir - Katchalski and Irit Katzir
Brother of Prof. Aharon Katzir

Occupation: 4th President of Israel, Biophysisist, Labor Party politician
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Ephraim Katzir, Fourth President of Israel

Ephraim Katzir, 4th President of Israel

Ephraim Katzir (Hebrew: אפרים קציר‎) (May 16, 1916 – May 30, 2009) was an Israeli biophysicist and former Israeli Labor Party politician. He was the fourth President of Israel from 1973 until 1978.

Prof. Ephraim Katzir (1916-2009)] (Interface; Fall/Winter 2009, Ed. Yivsam Azgad

Weizmann Institute Professor Ephraim Katzir, the fourth president of the State of Israel, an internationally esteemed Israeli scientist and one of the founders of the Weizmann Institute of Science, passed away on Saturday, May 30, 2009, at his home in the Weizmann Institute. He was 93.

Ephraim Katzir was born in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1916. His parents, Yehuda and Tzila Katchalski, brought him to the Land of Israel in 1922. After finishing high school in Jerusalem, he chose to study botany, zoology and bacteriology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, though he eventually focused on biochemistry and organic chemistry. In 1941, he completed his doctoral degree with research in simple synthetic polymers of amino acids and continued his studies at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, Columbia University and Harvard University.

While studying in Jerusalem, Katzir was active in the Hagana and advanced to the rank of field corps company commander. In 1948, after returning from the US, he became involved in military research and development in the Israel army’s Science Corps, “Hemed,” founded at the start of the 1948 War of Independence, and for a time commanded it as a lieutenant colonel.

At the close of the War of Independence, together with his scientist brother, Aharon, Ephraim Katzir joined the faculty of the Weizmann Institute of Science where he established and headed the Biophysics Department. Aharon served as head of the Polymer Department until his murder in a terrorist attack at the Lod airport in 1972.

Over the course of his career, Ephraim Katzir researched synthetic models to investigate the principles of polymer structure and function. His pioneering studies contributed to the deciphering of the genetic code, to the development of synthetic antigens, and to the clarification of the various steps in immune reactions. An understanding of the properties of his models (“poly-amino acids”) aided, among other things, in the development of the multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone® at the Weizmann Institute.

Another of Katzir’s significant successes was the development, in the 1960s, of a method for binding enzymes to various substrates. The method is used today as an important tool in the drug and food industries.

Parallel to his scientific research, Katzir was also active over the years in the social and educational sides of science. He headed a governmental committee that set national science policy, raised generations of new scientists, translated important scientific material into Hebrew and helped to establish a Hebrew-language popular science magazine. He served as the head scientist of the Ministry of Defense and chaired the Society for the Advancement of Science in Israel, the Israeli Biochemical Society, the National Council for Research and Development and the Council for the Advancement of Science Education. In addition, he headed the National Biotechnology Council.

In 1973, Katzir was chosen to be president of the State of Israel (its fourth president), a position he held until 1978. (With his appointment to the presidency, he changed his name from Katchalski to Katzir.) In his term as president, he put special emphasis on societal problems and education and regularly went out of his way to become acquainted with all the different groups making up Israel’s population.

Returning to his scientific career, Katzir’s research took off in new directions. He headed a team that won an international competition for computerized modeling of proteins and took part in a multidisciplinary scientific team that discovered key aspects of the effect of snake venom on the human body. He authored hundreds of scientific articles and served on the editorial and advisory boards of many scientific journals. In honor of his 60th, 70th and 80th birthdays, international scientific symposia were held in Rehovot and Jerusalem. On his 90th birthday, an international scientific conference was held at the Weizmann Institute.

Prof. Katzir was a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and of numerous other learned bodies in Israel and abroad, including the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Royal Society of London, the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, the Academie des Sciences in France, the Scientific Academy of Argentina and the World Academy of Art and Science. He was a visiting professor at Harvard University, Rockefeller University, the University of California at Los Angeles and Battelle Seattle Research Center.

In addition, Katzir was awarded the Rothschild and Israel Prizes in Natural Sciences, the Weizmann Prize, the Linderstrom Land Gold Medal, the Hans Krebs Medal, the Tchernikovsky Prize for scientific translation, the Alpha Omega Achievement Medal and the Engineering Foundation’s International Award in Enzyme Engineering. He was the first recipient of the Japan Prize and was appointed to France’s Order of the Legion of Honor. He received honorary doctorates from more than a dozen institutions of higher learning in Israel and around the world, including Harvard University, Northwestern University, McGill University, the University of Oxford and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

The official memorial ceremony, held in the Weizmann Institute’s Memorial Plaza, was attended by the president of the state, Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, as well as many government ministers, Knesset members, educators, scientists and members of the public.

President Shimon Peres said in his memory: “I have never met another man with such renown and talents as Ephraim, who had so much personal humility combined with such public boldness; boldness in everything related to science, modesty in everything related to the man. He founded the IDF Science Corps (Hemed). When I was director of the Ministry of Defense, the cooperation between us was both full and stimulating. He always created an atmosphere around him of quiet faith.

“From the state’s beginning, Ben-Gurion wanted the president to be a man of science. After Aharon’s murder, then Prime Minister Golda Meir had a heart-to-heart talk with Ephraim and he agreed to take on the mantle of the presidency. Ephraim had a hard time refusing the request, but it was just as hard for him to tear himself away from his lab. He used his scientific savvy in the role of president, working to unite the people, reduce inequality, prevent the polarization of the society and raise its moral standards, as well as to raise the standard of science.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his memory: “There are few people whose humility and common touch become greater as they rise in the world. Not many are the people who, even as they ascend to the summit, continue to act with everyday humanity. Ephraim Katzir was such a man. Even when he was president, he was never high and mighty; even when he led groundbreaking research, he never lost sight of the path beneath his feet; even when his name became known around the world, his love for this country remained steadfast and deep. A gracious man, ethical, deep, inquisitive and a lover of his fellow man. Ephraim Katzir was nobly stoic in the face of the loss of his beloved brother, Aharon, who was murdered at the hands of terrorists.

“His whole life, Ephraim Katzir used his rare abilities to contribute to his people and his country. He always made sure that the mission was the main point and not himself – the instrument of the mission.

“This attitude of quiet, modest contribution noticeably accompanied him even when he was chosen to be the fourth president of the State of Israel. History arranged a term for him that began with the Yom Kippur War and ended with peace negotiations with the largest Arab state – Egypt. Yet in this period, President Katzir managed to devote a good part of his time to issues of society and education, higher education and welfare, and he initiated many important projects and good works. And he was always searching for ways to connect youth with science.”

The president of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Prof. Daniel Zajfman, said in his memory: “Ephraim was a brave scientist, who followed his curiosity to the boundaries of human knowledge. In the days when it was hard to imagine a connection between physics and the life sciences, Ephraim founded the Department of Biophysics at the Weizmann Institute of Science. In the days when the State of Israel was having difficulty feeding its citizens, Ephraim looked into the future and decided to research the structure of proteins and their function in the human body.

“But Ephraim didn’t shut himself up in the lab. He saw science as an integral part of human culture and he believed that scientists should lead human society to a better future. Faithful to this belief, he took an extremely active role in explaining science to the general public and he headed the Council for the Advancement of Science Education.

“In Ephraim’s life, Zionism and science were interwoven. It’s not accidental that this ceremony is taking place not far from the burial place of the first president of the State of Israel and of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Chaim Weizmann. It’s no accident that two Weizmann Institute scientists have served as president of the state: Ephraim Katzir and Chaim Weizmann. Both saw Zionism and science as two sides of a whole that is greater than its parts; both believed in the expansion of human knowledge as a means to improve the quality of life for all. Not only were they both right, they proved the justice of their claim.”

Open Questions

In one of Prof. Ephraim Katzir’s last public appearances, he spoke to a group of young people who were at the Weizmann Institute to hear a science lecture in the Katzir-Makineni Lecture Series.

He said: “As someone who has been involved for years in researching life processes, I believe that young people have the originality of thought and the courage to work in any field they choose to engage in.

“When I started studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I thought I would be a mathematician. I studied mathematics for a whole year and I got great satisfaction from it because there’s a philosophy to mathematics and pure reason. Afterward, I thought that physics was a good subject and I founded the Biophysics Department. In this field, as well, I enjoyed myself, and I saw that a foundation in mathematics is exceptionally beneficial. When I reached the ripe old age of 40, I decided that the life sciences were interesting – and it is, really, a wonderful field. Thus, if any of you choose to go into mathematics and also want to conduct research, I can promise you one thing: There’s outstanding satisfaction in scientific research and there are many more questions waiting for you to discover and investigate. For example: How does one part of the body affect another part? Why do I think in my head that this place is nice? Why, when I’m hungry, does my stomach suddenly start to tell me I’m hungry? A lot of questions are waiting for you to come and answer them and share your knowledge with everyone.”

Biography

Katzir was born Efraim Katchalski, son of Yehuda and Tzila Katchalski, in Kiev, in the Russian Empire. In 1925 , he immigrated to Mandate Palestine with his family and settled in Jerusalem. In 1932, he graduated from Gymnasia Rehavia. Like his brother, Aharon, he was interested in science.He studied botany, zoology, chemistry and bacteriology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1938, he received an M.Sc, and in 1941, he received a Ph.D. degree. In 1939, he graduated from the first Haganah officers course, and became commander of the student unit in the field forces ('Hish). He and his brother worked on development of new explosives. In May, 1948, Ephraim was appointed commander of the "Heyl Mada" (HEMED) - scientific research and development corps. His brother, chairman of the Department of Polymer Research at Weizmann Institute, was murdered in the Lod Airport Massacre.

Katzir was married to Nina (née Gottlieb), born in Poland, who died in 1986. As an English teacher, Nina developed a unique method for teaching language. As the president's wife, she introduced the custom of inviting children books' authors and their young readers to the President's Residence. She established the Nurit Katzir Jerusalem Theater Center in 1978 in memory of their deceased daughter, Nurit. They had a son, Meir, and three grandchildren. Katzir died on May 30, 2009 at his home in Rehovot.

After continuing his studies at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, Columbia University and Harvard University, he returned to Israel and became head of the Department of Biophysics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, an institution he helped to found. In 1966–1968, Katzir was Chief Scientist of the Israel Defense Forces.[2] His initial research centered on simple synthetic protein models, but he also developed a method for binding enzymes, which helped lay the groundwork for what is now called enzyme engineering.

In 1973, Golda Meir contacted Katzir at Harvard University, asking him to accept the presidency. He hebraicized his family name to Katzir, which means 'harvest'.

On 10 March 1973, Katzir was elected by the Knesset to serve as the fourth President of Israel. He received 66 votes to 41 caste in favour of his opponent Ephraim Urbach and he assumed office on 24 May 1973.

In November 1977, he hosted President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in the first ever official visit of an Arab head of state. In 1978, he declined to stand for a second term due to his wife's illness, and was succeeded by Yitzhak Navon. After stepping down as President, he returned to his scientific work.

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Ephraim Katzir, Fourth President of Israel's Timeline

1916
May 16, 1916
Kiev, Kyiv, Ukraine
1943
June 19, 1943
Age 27
1974
March 10, 1974
- June 3, 1974
Age 57
Jerusalem, Israel

16th government of Israel.
March 10, 1974 - June 3, 1974.

Golda Meir, Prime Minister.

See photo.

In photo, left to right - seated: Golda Meir, Prime Minister; Ephraim Katzir, Fourth President; Yigal Allon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Culture
Standing: Pinhas Sapir, Minister of Finance; Shlomo Hille, Minister of Police; Shimon Peres, Minister of Information; Gideon Hausner, Minister without Portfolio; Michael Hazani, Minister of Social Welfare; Abba Eban, Foreign Minister; Yosef Burg, Minister of Interior; Moshe Kol, Minister of Tourism; Yitzhak Rafael, Minister of Religious Affairs; Haim Zadok, Minister of Justice; Shlomo Rosen, Minister of Immigrant Absorption; Haim Gvati, Minister of Agriculture; Israel Galili, Minister without Portfolio; Yitzhak Rabin, Minister of Labor; Aharon Uzan, Minister of Communications; Aharon Yariv, Minister of Transport; Moshe Dayan, Minister of Defense; Haim Bar-Lev, Minister of Trade and Industry; Michael Arnon, Cabinet Secretary

Missing in photo: Victor Shemtov, Minister of Health; Yehoshua Rabinowitz, Minister of Housing

חברים בממשלה ה - 16
10/3/1974 - 3/6/1974
בכנסת השמינית

ראש ממשלה גולדה מאיר
סגן ראש הממשלה יגאל אלון
שר האוצר פנחס ספיר
שר הביטחון משה דיין
שר הבריאות ויקטור שם-טוב (לא חבר כנסת)
שר הדתות יצחק רפאל
שר ההסברה שמעון פרס
שר החוץ אבא אבן
שר החינוך והתרבות יגאל אלון
שר החקלאות חיים גבתי (לא חבר כנסת)
שר המסחר והתעשייה חיים בר-לב (לא חבר כנסת)
שר המשטרה שלמה הלל
שר המשפטים חיים יוסף צדוק
שר הסעד יעקב-מיכאל חזני (עד ה - 4.4.1974)
שר העבודה יצחק רבין
שר הפיתוח חיים בר-לב (לא חבר כנסת)
שר הפנים יוסף בורג
שר השיכון יהושע רבינוביץ` (לא חבר כנסת)
שר התחבורה אהרן יריב
שר התיירות משה קול (לא חבר כנסת)
שר התקשורת אהרן אוזן (לא חבר כנסת)
סגן שר התקשורת ג`בר מועדי (מה - 6.5.1974)
שר לקליטת עלייה שלמה רוזן (לא חבר כנסת)
שר בלי תיק ישראל גלילי
שר בלי תיק גדעון האוזנר (לא חבר כנסת)
י

June 3, 1974
- June 20, 1977
Age 58
Jerusalem, Israel

17th government of Israel
June 3, 1974 - June 20, 1977

Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister and Minister of Communications

See photo.

In photo, left to right - seated: Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister and Minister of Communications; Ephraim Katzir, Fourth President; Yigal Allon, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister
Standing: Moshe Baram, Minister of Labor; Aharon Yadlin, Minister of Education and Culture; Yehoshua Rabinowitz, Minister of Finance; Shlomo Hillel, Minister of Police; Moshe Kol, Minister of Touruism; Gideon Hausner, Minister without Portfolio; Haim Zadok, Minister of Justice; Shimon Peres, Minister of Defense; Shulamit Aloni, Minister without Portfolio; Victor Shem Tov, Minister of Health; Shlomo Rosen, Minister of Immigrant Absorption; Haim Bar Lev - Minister of Trade and Industry; Avraham Ofer, Minister of Housing; Israel Galili, Minister without Portfolio; Gad Yaacobi, Minister of Transport; Aharon Uzan, Minister of Agriculture; Aharon Yariv, Minister of Information; Gershon Avner, Cabinet Secretary

Note: The NRP joined the government only on 9.10.1974. Until then, Shlomo Hillel also served as Minister of Interior, Haim Zadok as Minister of Religious Affairs, and Victor Shemtov as Minister of Social Welfare

חברים בממשלה ה - 17
3/6/1974 - 20/6/1977
בכנסת השמינית

ראש ממשלה יצחק רבין
סגן ראש הממשלה יגאל אלון
שר האוצר יהושע רבינוביץ` (לא חבר כנסת)
שר הביטחון שמעון פרס
שר הבריאות ויקטור שם-טוב (לא חבר כנסת)
שר הדתות חיים יוסף צדוק (עד ה - 29.10.1974)
יצחק רפאל (מה - 30.10.1974 עד ה - 22.12.1976)
חיים יוסף צדוק (מה - 16.1.1977)
שר ההסברה אהרן יריב (עד ה - 4.2.1975)
שר החוץ יגאל אלון
שר החינוך והתרבות אהרן ידלין
שר החקלאות אהרן אוזן (לא חבר כנסת)
סגן שר החקלאות ג`בר מועדי (מה - 24.3.1975)
שר המסחר והתעשייה חיים בר-לב (לא חבר כנסת)
שר המשטרה שלמה הלל
שר המשפטים חיים יוסף צדוק
שר הסעד ויקטור שם-טוב (עד ה - 29.10.1974) (לא חבר כנסת)
יעקב-מיכאל חזני (מה - 30.10.1974 עד ה - 2.7.1975 - נפטר)
יצחק רבין (מה - 7.7.1975 עד ה - 29.7.1975)
יוסף בורג (מה - 29.7.1975 עד ה - 4.11.1975)
זבולון המר (מה - 4.11.1975 עד ה - 22.12.1976)
משה ברעם (מה - 16.1.1977)
שר העבודה משה ברעם
שר הפנים שלמה הלל (עד ה - 29.10.1974)
יוסף בורג (מה - 29.10.1974 עד ה - 22.12.1976)
שלמה הלל (מה - 16.1.1977)
שר השיכון אברהם עופר (עד ה - 3.1.1977 - נפטר)
שלמה רוזן (מה - 16.1.1977) (לא חבר כנסת)
שר התחבורה גד יעקבי
שר התיירות משה קול (לא חבר כנסת)
שר התקשורת יצחק רבין (עד ה - 20.3.1975)
אהרן אוזן (מה - 20.3.1975) (לא חבר כנסת)
סגן שר התקשורת ג`בר מועדי (עד ה - 24.3.1975)
אליהו מויאל (מה - 24.3.1975)
שר לקליטת עלייה שלמה רוזן (לא חבר כנסת)
שרה בלי תיק שולמית אלוני (עד ה - 6.11.1974)
שר בלי תיק ישראל גלילי
שר בלי תיק גדעון האוזנר (לא חבר כנסת)
י

1977
June 20, 1977
- August 5, 1981
Age 61
Jerusalem, Israel

18th government of Israel.
June 20, 1977 - August 5, 1981.

Menahem Begin, Prime Minister.

See photo.

In photo, left to right - seated: Menahem Begin, Prime Minister; Ephraim Katzir, Fourth President; Yigael Yadin, Deputy Prime Minister
Standing: Meir Amit, Minister of Transport and Communications; Aharon Abuhazeira, Minister of Religious Affairs; Zevulun Hammer, Minister of Education and Culture; Yigael Hurwitz, Minister of Trade and Industry; Ezer Weizman, Minister of Defense; Simcha Ehrlich, Minister of Finance; Gideon Patt, Minister of Construction and Housing; Eliezer Shustak, Minister of Health; Israel Katz, Minister of Labor and Welfare; Ariel Sharon, Minister of Agriculture; Shmuel Tamir, Minister of Justice; Moshe Dayan, Foreign Minister; Arieh Naor, Cabinet Secretary

Missing in photo: David Levy, Minister of Immigrant Absorption; Yosef Burg, Minister of Interior

חברים בממשלה ה - 18
20/6/1977 - 5/8/1981
בכנסת התשיעית

ראש ממשלה מנחם בגין
סגן ראש הממשלה שמחה ארליך
יגאל ידין (מה - 24.10.1977)
סגן שר במשרד ראש הממשלה יורם ארידור (מה - 4.7.1977 עד ה - 28.12.1980)
שר האוצר שמחה ארליך (עד ה - 7.11.1979)
יגאל הורביץ (מה - 7.11.1979 עד ה - 13.1.1981)
יורם ארידור (מה - 21.1.1981)
סגן שר האוצר יחזקאל פלומין (מה - 28.6.1977 עד ה - 30.7.1979)
שר האנרגיה והתשתית יצחק מודעי
שר הביטחון עזר ויצמן (עד ה - 26.5.1980)
מנחם בגין (מה - 28.5.1980)
סגן שר הביטחון מרדכי צפורי (מה - 28.6.1977)
שר הבינוי והשיכון גדעון פת (עד ה - 15.1.1979)
דוד לוי (מה - 15.1.1979)
שר הבריאות אליעזר שוסטק
שר הדתות אהרן אבוחצירא
שר החוץ משה דיין (עד ה - 23.10.1979)
מנחם בגין (מה - 23.10.1979 עד ה - 10.3.1980)
יצחק שמיר (מה - 10.3.1980)
שר החינוך והתרבות זבולון המר
שר החקלאות אריאל שרון
שר המשפטים מנחם בגין (עד ה - 24.10.1977)
שמואל תמיר (מה - 24.10.1977 עד ה - 5.8.1980)
משה נסים (מה - 13.8.1980)
שר העבודה והרווחה מנחם בגין (עד ה - 24.10.1977)
ישראל כץ (מה - 24.10.1977) (לא חבר כנסת)
שר הפנים יוסף בורג
שר התחבורה מנחם בגין (עד ה - 24.10.1977)
מאיר עמית (מה - 24.10.1977 עד ה - 15.9.1978)
חיים לנדאו (מה - 15.1.1979) (לא חבר כנסת)
שר התעשייה, המסחר והתיירות יגאל הורביץ (עד ה - 1.10.1978)
גדעון פת (מה - 15.1.1979)
סגן שר התעשייה, המסחר והתיירות יצחק פרץ (מה - 28.6.1977 עד ה - 15.1.1979)
שר התקשורת מנחם בגין (עד ה - 24.10.1977)
מאיר עמית (מה - 24.10.1977 עד ה - 15.9.1978)
יצחק מודעי (מה - 15.1.1979 עד ה - 22.12.1980)
יורם ארידור (מה - 5.1.1981)
שר לקליטת עלייה דוד לוי
שר בלי תיק חיים לנדאו (מה - 10.1.1978 עד ה - 15.1.1979) (לא חבר כנסת)
שר בלי תיק משה נסים (מה - 10.1.1978 עד ה - 13.8.1980)
י

2009
May 30, 2009
Age 93
Rehovot, Israel
June 1, 2009
Age 93
Rehovot, Israel
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