Israel’s second president earned less than his driver
Jerusalem: Israel's second President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi had earned 40 per cent less than his driver, according to just-released state archives.
The documents reveal that in 1962 Israeli Parliament (Knesset) Finance Committee held a special session to discuss how to raise President Ben-Zvi's salary against his wishes.
Special session was commenced as Ben-Zvi's salary had not been increased since he took office 10 years earlier. Ben-Zvi was earning 40 per cent less than his driver.
He opposed any hikes in his salary as his contribution in the nation building process.
The committee voted to triple Ben-Zvi's salary despite his opposition, state archives documents published recently to commemorate the Israeli leader's 50th death anniversary say.
"This case well reflects the personality of this special man a symbol of modesty and personal and public integrity," said the archives' website.
In December 1962, Ben-Zvi wrote to the committee's chairman, Israel Guri decrying the raise, Ha'aretz reported.
"In my opinion, as long as we are required to fulfill two important commandments bringing in our brethren and absorbing them here, and increasing our security independence given the external threats we face we dare not get dragged into raising our standard of living.
I have therefore opposed, in principle, a rise in my salary, in the hope that I would serve as an example to others," Ben-Zvi wrote.
But when the committee ignored his wishes, he donated part of his salary to a research fund that help "prepare original historic manuscripts on the history of the Jewish people," the report said.
"He was known for his humility and distaste for the pursuit of riches and extravagance. His associates reported that they have to persuade him to buy a new suit or a pair of shoes," it noted.
"I have too many clothes and I can distribute them to the poor," Ben-Zvi was quoted as saying.
"I have two pairs of shoes, and the second pair is unnecessary," the documents quote him as saying.
The Israeli leader also rejected the proposal to live in a luxurious official residence in Jerusalem. He said a modest home is sufficient when tens of thousands of Israelis are living in transit camps, tents and shacks.
Ben-Zvi pursued his modesty also in death by refusing to be buried in the section for Israel's greats on Mount Herzl.
He was buried instead in a regular plot in the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in 1963, though his tomb was fenced off.
Two years ago his family was shocked to find that the burial society had destroyed the compound in an attempt to prepare the space for new graves, Ha'aretz reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared it a heritage site after documents proved that the grave site had been specially designated "the President's plot".