Israel's fourth president, Ephraim Katzir, passed away on Saturday evening at his home in Rehovot. He was 93. Katzir had recently been hospitalized for several weeks after falling ill, but he was released to his home after his condition improved.
"He was an outstanding man, a world famous scientist who made an extraordinary contribution to the security of the State of Israel," President Shimon Peres said of Katzir following his passing.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also released a statement, saying that Katzir showed his "commitment to the State of Israel in everything he did," and praising him as a "pioneer" in his academic fields. "His integrity and decency stand as an example to all," the prime minister said.
The funeral will be held on Sunday at 18:00 at the main cemetery in Rehovot. Katzir asked to be buried there, next to his wife Nina who died in 1986, rather than Mt. Herzl as is customary for former national leaders.
Born in Russia in 1916 as Ephraim Katchalsky, Katzir's family immigrated to then British-mandate Palestine in 1922. He served in the Haganah and studied biology and chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After receiving his PhD, he joined the university's faculty.
In the 1940s he became one of the first scientists to join the Weitzman Institute of Science, where he founded and headed the biophysics department.
In 1959 he received the Israel Prize for natural sciences, and was the first Israeli elected to the American Academy of Sciences. Between 1966 and 1968 he served as the IDF's chief science officer.
In 1973 he was elected president after contending as Labor's candidate. He welcomed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Israel on the latter's historic visit prior to the signing of the peace agreement.
He retired from the presidency after one term, and returned to academic life.
His brother Aharon Katzir, a well-known scientist in his own right, was murdered in the terrorist attack on Ben Gurion Airport on May 30th 1972 – exactly 37 years ago.