President's Residence Rejects Bequeathed Gift From Rehovot MD

It's not every day that the President's Residence is bequeathed an elegant silver coffee service. But that is just what Sarah Graf, a pediatrician from Rehovot who died several months ago at the age of 97, wanted world leaders to see when they visited the president of Israel.

Unfortunately, the august recipient had to politely inform the executors that it could not accept the bequest, since the rule at the President's Residence is that all gifts must be returned to their senders - even if the donor is just an ordinary citizen.

Sometimes, President Shimon Peres receives cash or checks enclosed in a note thanking him for his service, but that, too, is returned.

Most of Graf's possessions were distributed among a handful of relatives in Israel and abroad, as well as a long list of nonprofit organizations.

But the silver coffee service, which the will describes as weighing six kilograms, was left to the President's Residence.

In her will, Graf asked that it be displayed there with a prominent sign identifying it as a bequest from Sarah Graf and her husband, Max, also a pediatrician.

The Grafs, who had no children of their own, tended to the children of Rehovot and the surrounding area from their one-story house in the center of the city.

"They were people who devotedly saved children from death over the course of dozens of years," a relative told Haaretz. "They always did their bit modestly."

But based on the relative's description, the bequest to the President's Residence was not exactly modest.

"[Graf's] desire was that all the lords of the land who come to the President's Residence in Jerusalem and walk through its halls should pass the display of her coffee service and enjoy its beauty," she said. "She thought it would be a great honor for the set to be displayed in the President's Residence."

The Gifts Law requires all gifts received by civil servants or elected officials due to their office to be sold by the custodian general in public auction, with the proceeds going to the state treasury.

Items sold via such auctions in the past include pearl necklaces, watches and clocks received by Mossad personnel, watches given to senior officials by the Jordanian king, and an ancient music box that former prime minister Ariel Sharon received from the president of Georgia.

Meanwhile, Graf's coffee service is stashed away in a safe, waiting for the executors to tell the court that the President's Residence has waived the bequest so a new home can be chosen.