America has had 11 presidents in the period from the founding of the State of Israel up to Barack Obama's election: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr. Clinton and Bush Jr. But in his speech in honor of the swearing-in of the new Knesset, President Shimon Peres determined that Israel owes thanks to only seven. It is unlikely that he wanted to insult the other four. He probably just made a mistake. Perhaps he consulted with the historian Benjamin Netanyahu.
In his speech, Peres also said that president Abraham Lincoln once promised his Jewish "doctor," Isachar Zacharie, to support the establishment of a Jewish state. Peres did not invent Zacharie, but ? how shall we put this gently ? there are several versions of this story. It seems that one of Lincoln's acquaintances did indeed tell him about an idea to establish a state for the Jews in the Land of Israel, and Lincoln replied that the option was worthy of consideration. He added incidentally that he had respect for the Jews, since his podiatrist was Jewish.
In actuality, Zacharie was not a medical doctor. In England and the U.S. you can treat foot problems without being a physician, and Zacharie was in fact an English Jew. His reputation as a miracle worker preceded him when he settled in Washington, D.C., in 1862. One of his patients was the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, who recommended Zacharie's services to the president, and the two subsequently became friends.
Lincoln entrusted Zacharie with various tasks and Zacharie used his connections with him to improve the Jews' lot, but it is doubtful he spoke to Lincoln about establishing a Jewish state. During the Civil War, Zacharie was sent on a secret mission to the South and set up a spy network there. Afterward, he harbored fantasies about all kinds of peace plans, of the sort that would one day haunt Shimon Peres' mind.
Zacharie's ties to Lincoln led to the cancellation of General Ulysses S. Grant's order to expel Jews from Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentuckey. Apparently, Zacharie also acted to secure "the Jewish vote" for Lincoln. The president's assassination left his podiatrist without any pull, and he got himself entangled in an embarrassing scandal: He demanded $45,000 from the U.S. government as payment for treating the feet of 15,000 soldiers in Lincoln' army. A Congressional committee tossed him out unceremoniously, and he went home.
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