Israel’s new president Isaac Herzog may come from a prominent political family but it is his connections to Cyprus that are making news on the island's social media this week.
Herzog made history last week when he became Israel’s first second-generation president-elect, following in the footsteps of his Irish-born father, Chaim Herzog, the country's sixth president.
Reports in the media have highlighted Herzog’s past with a long list of impressive facts, including his chief rabbi grandfather in Ireland, his UN ambassador uncle, as well as his Ashkenazi status, referring to an elite group of Jews who arrived from Europe and shaped politics for decades after its founding in 1948.
Local media in Cyprus also took a crack at Israeli politics over the weekend, with Philenews referring to Herzog as a mild-mannered president.
Herzog’s maternal grandfather was co-founder of Cyprus Phassouri Plantations and his paternal grandfather was involved in repatriating to Israel Holocaust survivors held in British camps on the island
But according to Sammy Revel, the Israeli ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus, there were additional facts about Herzog that had remained largely unknown.
“What might not be particularly well known is that the new Israeli president maintains ties with Cyprus,” Revel wrote on Facebook.
The ambassador went on to say that Herzog’s maternal grandfather was one of the co-founders of Cyprus Phassouri Plantations in the 1930’s.
Cyprus Phassouri Plantations was founded and registered on the island in 1933 under the name The Cyprus Palestine Plantations but the name was changed in 1974 when the company’s ownership fell into Cypriot hands.
Revel also pointed out Herzog’s paternal grandfather had been involved in the repatriation to Israel of Jewish Holocaust survivors who had been held in British camps in Famagusta in 1947 and 1948.
“He has referred multiple times to his grandfathers and has had the nicest things to say about our place,” Revel wrote in his post.
The ambassador also attached two photos, one of a dinner in January 2020 in Jerusalem, where Herzog is seen among the attendees during a visit to Israel by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.
The other photo showed Jewish Holocaust survivors in a British colonialist internment camp in Cyprus in the 1940’s.
More than 50,000 Jews are believed to have been interned in a dozen camps in Cyprus from 1945 until 1948, with an estimated 2200 children having been born on the island in detention.
It has been said that among Israelis who visit Cyprus, many come to pay tribute to those who had made the decision while in detention on the island, a stepping stone to a Jewish homeland, to commit to building that new life.
In 2014 Anastasiades inaugurated a commemorative plaque in Xylotymbou village, the site location of an internment camp.