Zalman Shazar is born Shneor Zalman Rubashov in 1889 in Mir, Belarus to a family of Chabad Rabbis. Involved in the early development of Zionism, Shazar organizes Jewish self-defense groups in Belarus and Ukraine, joining the Poalei Zion (workers of Zion) movement in 1905. In 1923, at the 13th Zionist Congress, he is elected to the Zionist Executive Committee.
Shazar, who first visits the Land of Israel in 1911, makes Aliyah in 1924, 4 years after marrying his wife Rachel Katzenelson. Arriving to Palestine, he is active in the Zionist Labor Movement and the Zionist Organization. He serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the Histadrut Labor Union and likewise functions as a member of the editorial board of the Davar newspaper, serving as its Editor in Chief from 1944-1949.
Shazar is one of the writers of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. He makes his official entry into Israeli politics in 1949, when he is elected to the first Knesset as a member of the Mapai party. Immediately after the election, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion appoints him as Minister of Education, a role he only serves during his first term in public office.
Although he did not serve as a Minister in Ben-Gurion’s second government, he maintains his Knesset seat in the 1951 and 1955 elections. In 1952, Shazar becomes a member of the Jewish Agency Executive, and in fact resigns from the Knesset in 1956 to become the Chairman of the Jewish Agency’s Jerusalem Executive from 1956-1960. Between 1960 and 1963, Shazar serves other senior functions in the Jewish Agency, until he is elected as Israel’s third President. He remains in office for 10 years. He is the first Israeli President to actually live at the President’s Residence (Beit ha’Nassi) in Jerusalem, which he opens to various scholars and artists.
Likewise a noted writer, he publishes hundreds of articles and poems, and is the namesake for The Zalman Shazar Center for the study of Jewish History in Jerusalem. Shazar passes away on October 5, 1974 in Jerusalem.