Socialist, Scientist, Statesman

It is no secret that death awaits us all, yet it always comes as a surprise. Now my conscience is bothering me. In the past 10 years I often thought of visiting Ephraim Katzir, to inquire about his health and ask him many other questions. But I never got around to it, more's the pity.

Few people know that Katzir and his brother were top socialist leaders in their youth, and that scientific research didn't cut them off from the social-national vision and the ideal of establishing a model state in the land of Israel. It did not cut them off from maintaining social solidarity, making that model state possible.

Katzir was a man of many talents, a scholar and a lover of humanity. He was always friendly, patient and tolerant - and, as was said of the English statesman Thomas More, he was "a man for all seasons."

Not many people remember him as president, mainly due to his modesty. Unfortunately, all that people do remember, half-mockingly, is his statement "we're all guilty," following the public's harsh criticism of the Yom Kippur War government. True, not all of us were guilty. But nor were Golda Meir's cabinet members the only guilty party, despite their conceit and her arrogant statement, "If the Egyptians want war, we'll give them war."

Katzir wanted to soften the anti-government censure, and pointed the finger at himself.

We were friends before he became president, and his advice and assistance were of great help to me when I became science minister.

Those who knew him well, who knew of the disasters that befell him and his family, and of his scientific work, will remember him for many years to come.