Einstein for President in Israel?

Kelly Quraishi, Writer

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What comes to mind when you think of Albert Einstein? The theory of relativity, and maybe even the equation E=MC²? What about President? And no, he was never the President of the United States, however, he was almost President… of Israel.

On November 9, 1952, Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, died. Under instructions from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Abba Eban wrote to Einstein asking if he would want to take over as President. Just 8 days after the passing of President Weizmann, Eban wrote, “Acceptance would entail moving to Israel and taking its citizenship. The Prime Minister assures me that in such circumstances complete facility and freedom to pursue your great scientific work would be afforded by a government and people who are fully conscious of the supreme significance of your labors.” His going into detail with the procedures that would go into effect if Einstein were to accept the offer demonstrates how serious Eban was. Israel’s interest in Einstein greatly stemmed from his religious connection to the country, with President Weizmann even mentioning that Einstein was “the greatest Jew alive”. The combination of wisdom, faith, and passion made Israel confident that Einstein could be trusted with such an important position.

Einstein had a different opinion on this matter, however. He replied to Eban saying, “I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel [to serve as President], and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it. All my life I have dealt with objective matters, hence I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official functions.” Einstein viewed himself as not fit for the job, which is why he denied taking the position. This was a difficult choice, however, since he did not want to let down his fellow Jewish people. Even Einstein thought he had flaws.