After seven years and two months at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, outgoing President Ezer Weizman and his wife, Reuma, today left the Residence and went back to their home in Caesaria.
The Weizmans bid farewell to Residence staff in a moving ceremony. All staff gathered in the salon, and applauded as the couple entered the room.
In his speech, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said that Weizman's presidential status was not based solely on his formal title. "He was a leader among people because the nation loved him. He reached through to everybody, striking a responsive chord in each one of us."
Weizman, who did not conceal his emotion, said he had already bid farewell many times in his life, "but this is the last public post I'm leaving. In any case, I'm leaving with a feeling of satisfaction."
Even on his last day in the President's Residence, Weizman commented on recent developments. He sharply condemned Shas allegations concerning discrimination against Jews of Sephardi origin. The allegations were made following the verdict on Deri's appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice. "Some freaks are pouring oil on the flames. The Israel Defense Force chief of staff and the Air Force commander are of Persian origin. The IDF Southern Command chief is of Libyan origin. The Northern Command chief and the head of Military Intelligence are of Moroccan origin. Inflammatory statements harping on the ethnic theme must be discontinued at once," Weizman said.
Referring to the comparison drawn by key Shas officials between the investigation against the President and the Deri affair, Weizman dismissed such statements as irresponsible and incorrect. "I've never been indicted. I've never been brought to trial. If it widens the rift in the Israeli nation, I regret being dragged into it."
On being asked about his wishes for the future, Weizman said, "As we army guys used to say in the good old days: To hell with life. What really counts is keeping healthy."
Published by Israel's Business Arena on 13 July, 2000