Visit to the Israeli Neighborhood League — HaPo’el Jerusalem
Credit: Berni Ardov
Mrs. Herzog, born in 1961, has been married to Isaac Herzog since 1985, is the mother of three sons, and speaks Hebrew, English, French, and Portuguese.
Mrs. Herzog holds a degree from the Tel Aviv University Law Faculty.
She is a member of the Israel Bar Association and managed her own law firm, which specialized in criminal law, white-collar crime, and commercial law.
Michal Herzog, First Lady of the State of Israel
For many years, Mrs. Herzog managed philanthropic foundations operating in a range of social fields in Israel, including health, scientific research, education, and welfare. In this capacity, she was involved in promoting projects to empower various sections of the Israeli population and integrate them into the workforce, creating pathways toward economic independence.
Over the years, Mrs. Herzog has served as a board member for numerous public organizations supporting people with disabilities, caring for at-risk youth, and promoting social mobility. She was also appointed to public commissions on issues relating to social entrepreneurship and exemplary volunteering activity in Israel. Mrs. Herzog founded the Tel Aviv University Law Faculty’s alumni association, headed the Haredi Employment Coalition, was a member of the state commission for the regulation of surrogacy, and worked to promote corporate social responsibility in Israel.
In her capacity as the first lady, Mrs. Herzog is actively involved in the field of mental health. She is fighting against mental health stereotypes and fostering open discourse about the subject, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on children and teenagers. She has also assumed the task of dealing with employment and sports as means of promoting social mobility.
Mrs. Herzog is working to apply her professional experience and skills as a respected mediator to reach all groups in Israeli society and promote the development of open dialogue as the basis for a shared future.
Mrs. Herzog has been focusing her domestic Israeli activities in the field of mental health on the struggle against mental health stigmas and on raising awareness about the widespread challenges involved. She emphasizes the importance of recognizing the difficulties that people with mental health problems suffer from and eliminating the shame that they often feel.
Believing in the importance of community and its ability to provide a supportive embrace around the subject of mental health, especially in the shadow of COVID-19, the First Lady emphasizes the need to extend a hand and open our hearts to the many people around and among us who need it.
The First Lady believes that despite the progress, with greater understanding that mental illness is a real illness for all intents and purposes, there is still a lack of awareness about the extent to which people with mental health issues are confronting a genuinely limiting phenomenon. Mental illness is still a subject, the First Lady believes, that many people are afraid to approach, hence the profound importance of open dialogue and education about it.
In her public remarks on the subject, Mrs. Herzog has said: “We must liberate the psyche, bring it out into the light, give it an airing, and recognize its difficulties. Once and for all, we must eliminate the stigma surrounding this issue—mental health—and all the more so, raising and establishing the fact there is not an iota of shame in such illnesses, and that they exist in almost every family, certainly in every part of society, especially after the COVID years that we have lived through, is something that I set my sights on when I entered this residence as the First Lady.”
In the context of her work beyond Israel’s borders, the First Lady has worked together with the First Lady of Ukraine, Mrs. Olena Zelenska, to lead a broad partnership to provide ongoing humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees and other victims of the war. At her initiative, and with her close involvement, a program was developed to provide psychological and professional assistance to therapists in Ukraine working with civilian victims on the home front.
At the Second Kyiv Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen, Mrs. Herzog said: “We, in Israel, are, unfortunately, deeply familiar with trauma, both direct and indirect. Therefore in my country we have developed mechanisms through which to live and survive despite constant threat. A few months ago, we began sharing the knowledge and expertise acquired in Israel in the fields of psychological distress with Ukraine’s emergency services. We utilized our expert organizations focused on advancing resilience through treatment, prevention, public awareness and research. We developed programs aimed at training the trainers and helping the helpers, in order to provide Ukrainian first responders and mental health professionals with the tools for safely aiding the painful process of healing.”
First Lady Michal Herzog has many years of experience working with civil society in Israel. In addition, her broad experience in the private and public sectors has given her a diverse perspective reflected in her efforts to create connections between communities. As a mediator in her heart and soul, the First Lady has been working to foster collaborations between communities, with the aim of improving the quality of Israeli citizens’ lives. By deepening the interactions between sectors—government, local authorities, businesses, civil society experts, philanthropists, and the next generation—the First Lady sees genuine cooperation that will help advance all parts of Israel society.
Mrs. Herzog believes that “we can see the need for the existence of a systematic and organizational infrastructure to enable the various sectors to engage each other in meaningful dialogue and interactions, connecting actors with different perspectives, sources of knowledge, and experience, not only at peak moments and during crises, but also during our daily routine.”
In her public remarks, Mrs. Herzog has expressed her wish, to which she is dedicating a large part of her efforts, “to build, brick by brick, the model society that we want to live in our Jewish and democratic state… a just society, a shared future, in which members of all communities must work together for the sake of the lofty values of social justice, equality, and liberty. Together, this is the only way we can confront all the challenges that await us.”
The diversity of Israeli society, comprising different religions, faiths, cultures, lifestyles, and identities, naturally affects the labor market. In this respect, the human diversity in Israel is, from the First Lady’s perspective, an opportunity that must be taken advantage of, seizing its latent advantages.
Of course, diversity in the workforce also promises great advantages for employers, who are able to boost the quality of their human capital and diversify their own abilities.
With this outlook, Mrs. Herzog has been working to promote profound and high-quality diversity in the world of employment in Israel by creating platforms to allow different communities and sections of the population to enjoy social mobility through the workforce. These efforts are being carried out, for example, through theHaredi Employment Coalition, which Mrs. Herzog headed in the past, and Co-Impact—The Partnership for a Breakthrough in Arab Employment, in tandem with the exploration of other collaborative projects that will come to light soon.
The First Lady believes in the power of sports, at every level and in every category, to create change, empower people, and advance issues of importance to us as individuals and as a society. Group belonging, the choice to get up and move, the inherent power of complimenting a competitor, dedication to a process and sticking to a challenge—all of these are tools for transforming reality, both for individuals and certainly for society.
Seeing sports as a means for creating change and growth and as an avenue for major social mobility, Mrs. Herzog has been working to promote programs that make these tools accessible to population groups that will benefit from them especially: promoting women in sports, empowering youth in the social and geographic periphery, and integrating people with disabilities into sports. The First Lady believes that the social impact of sports is potentially revolutionary, underpinned by the belief that “we are all part of the game.” In her remarks at the Public Committee for the Promotion of Women’s Sports, she said, “We want to broaden the involvement of the Office of the President in the field of sports and promote, as much as we can, the use of sports, as something popular and achievable, as a tool for social advancement and diverse discourse.”
The Nechama Rivlin Memorial Dr. Simon Gardner Award for Hebrew Poetry was instituted five years ago following a collaboration between representatives of the Guardian-General and the Office of the President, in order to give effect to the bequest of Dr. Gardner Simon, a British Jewish doctor who had held the State of Israel and the Hebrew language close to his heart. In his will from 1967, Dr. Gardner dedicated some of his wealth to encouraging Hebrew writing. Dr. Gardner Simon passed away in 1971.
The connection with First Lady Nechama Rivlin came naturally, and together with experts and professionals in the field, it was decided to dedicate the award to the composition of poetry, with the aim of “encouraging poets to create high-quality Hebrew poetry, with the power to enrich the Israeli world of poetry and thus contribute to the advancement of the spirit and culture in Israel.”
The award was first presented by Mrs. Rivlin, and after her death, it was dedicated in her name (and awarded twice more under its new name), and this year, the prize will be awarded for the fourth time.
The first prize stands at 50,000 NIS, and two special commendations are also awarded, with a prize value of 10,000 NIS each (the committee may decide how to distribute the annual prize funds and to what number of laureates).
Winner of the Poetry Prize: Mr. Amichai Chasson for his book Without Which (Bli Ma). Special commendations: Mr. Eli Eliyahu for his book Letter to the Children and Mrs. Rita Kogan for her book A Horse in a Skirt.
Winner of the Poetry Prize: Mrs . Sivan Har-Shefi for her book Zarqa. Special commendations: Mr. Avishai Huri for his book How Does an Abyss Do and Mrs. Lee Maman for her book Why Similar.
Winner of the Poetry Prize: Mrs. Bacol Serlui for her book Trembleth for Fear of Thee. Special commendations: Mr. Adi Wolfson for his book In Body and Not Only and Shlomit Appel for her book Memories from the Swimsuit Factory.
Winner of the Poetry Prize: Mrs. Hava Pinhas-Cohen for her book Rain in a Foreign Language. Special commendations: Mr. Yitzhak Cohen for his book Nearly Very Good and Mr. Rafi Weichert for his book Memories from a Record Store.