A passport can be a profoundly personal thing, as Orhan Pamuk wrote in the New Yorker. But it can sometimes mean a whole lot more. Chaim Weizmann, eminent scientist and statesman, was Israel’s first president. When I was at the Weizmann Institute of Science (founded by Weizmann and renamed in his honor in 1949) a few summers ago doing research, I had the opportunity to take a tour of his home. This home, on the grounds of the Institute, was used to greet foreign dignitaries and host a great deal of gatherings. From what I remember, most of the house didn’t particularly interest me. But off to the side, there was a display of Weizmann’s personal effects, including his passport, which I scrutinized. After looking a little more carefully, I noticed the number of Weizmann’s Israeli passport: ‘1’. Never has founding a country had so clear an effect on one’s travel papers.
Update: Here’s photographic evidence of the passport number (click the top photo to zoom in).