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'A Prince and Not a King'

Ezer Weizman in Spitfire fighter plane, 1966 (Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO)

Ezer Weizman

Lived: June 15, 1924 - April 24, 2005

Why you should know him: An Israeli pilot, commander of the Israeli Air Force, and Defense Minister, Weizman also served as the seventh President of Israel.

Born in Tel Aviv during the era of the British Mandate, Ezer Weizman had longtime ties to Israel. His uncle was Chaim Weizmann, Israel's first president, and Ezer would marry the sister-in-law of famed IDF leader Moshe Dayan.

As World War II broke out, Weizman trained as a combat pilot with the British Royal Air Force (RAF), serving during the war in India. From 1944 to 1946, he served with the Irgun underground in the Holy Land before going to England to study aeronautics.

When Israel fought her War of Independence, Weizman served as a pilot with the Haganah, the precursor to today's IDF. During the war, he took part in Israel's first fighter squadron mission, carried out by the IAF's first fighter squadron, attacking an Egyptian column advancing south of Tel Aviv.

From 1958 until 1966 he commanded the IAF, ultimately directing the air force's actions in the Six-Day War of 1967. Weizman directed that war's early morning surprise attacks on Egyptian air bases, resulting in the destruction of the entire Egyptian Air Force's 400 planes in just hours and leading to total Israeli air superiority.

Weizman retired from the military in 1969 in order to entire a life of politics. He served as Israel's Minister of Transportation, Defense Minister, Minister for Arab Affairs, and Minister of Science and Technology. In 1993, Weizman joined his uncle Chaim when he was elected President of Israel, a role he would hold twice, from 1993-1998 and then from 1998-2000.

When Weizman died in 2005 at the age of 80, his daughter Michal remembered this man who had devoted his life to his homeland while always remaining a man of the people as "a prince and not a king."

Tags: Israelis You Should Know

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