Meet the Herzls / A Herzl in power
Herzel Barzilai was born in 1960 and was named after the visionary of the state because that year marked what would have been Herzl’s 100th birthday.
Herzel Barzilai of Ashkelon, married with three children, was born in 1960 and was named after the visionary of the state because that year marked what would have been Herzl’s 100th birthday.
Barzilai relates that on the day he was born, his father bought a special coin issued by the Bank of Israel in Herzl’s honor, and he still has it.
He says his parents were ardent Zionists back in Tripoli, but only gave one of his other seven siblings a Zionist name, his brother Yair, in memory of the slain Lehi commander Avraham “Yair” Stern.
Barzilai, who is a member of the Ashkelon city council and is in charge of the commerce and tourism portfolio, did not name any of his children after Zionist leaders because he says he was looking for simple Hebrew names without any historical baggage. He also asserts that due to his involvement in local politics he looked for names that would not be subject to political interpretation or significance, in order to prevent his children from having any problems in the future.
Barzilai describes himself as traditional. “Not religious and not anti-religious, I eat only kosher food but don’t observe all the commandments,” he says. But he doesn’t feel that there is any particular problem with the fact that he bears the name of a man who some say was very far from being religiously observant. “I read a little about him, and as far as I’m concerned he fulfilled a dream for my parents and for an entire nation. That’s important enough for his name to be perpetuated, without mixing religious issues into it.”