President Reuven Rivlin did not give himself time to adjust to his new role, instantly plunging into presidential duties following his inauguration on Thursday.
Rivlin, who in his inauguration address sent wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded and had identified with the grief of families and friends of those who lost their lives in defense of the nation, made it clear to Israel’s enemies that they had not broken the country’s spirit.
“By gathering here, today, we are declaring our determination to continue to defend the operation of our democratic institutions and the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, even in a period of emergency, war and terrorism,” he said.
Rivlin traveled north to the family of Sec.-Lt. Bar Rahav in Ramat Yishai, east of Haifa.
From there he continued to the family of St.-Sgt. Oren Simcha Noach in Hoshaya in the Western Galilee, then to Atzmon to the family of St.-Sgt. Oz Mendelovich, and lastly for the day, to Nahariya to the family of Sgt. Adar Barsano.
It was not easy, he said at the Rahav home, to begin his new role going from place to place to offer condolences. “Everything in Israel starts with difficulty. Nothing comes easily. This is the reality of the neighborhood in which Israel exists.”
Rivlin said after visiting the families that he could see the pain and the mourning that etched their faces, and that he could understand their frustrations.
The son of every family is precious, he said, but to his parents he is the most outstanding soldier of all.
According to people close to Peres, the ninth president kept working till the last minute in office, spending much of Thursday morning on his farewell address, attending a military briefing, meeting with various officials and receiving visitors who wanted to personally thank him for his service to the state.
He also spent time sending post cards to the 13 agents in his security detail who had received emergency call-up notices from the army and were in the Gaza Strip.
Rivlin’s director-general, Harel Tubi, who is taking over from Peres’s director-general, Efrat Duvdevani, was also called to reserve duty.
Peres assembled those who had not been called up to thank them personally for having taken such devoted care for his safety, and said they had looked after him so well that he felt as if they were his extended family.
To those who were about to embark on reserve duty, Peres told them they had an important mission to carry out.
In a farewell letter Peres received from Raz Tzur, the head of his security team, Tzur wrote that on the Saturday night prior to Operation Protective Edge, he had received a phone call at 2 a.m. from the security guard assigned to the president’s living quarters, saying all the lights in the president’s apartment were on and that Peres was very tense and pacing up and down, unable to sleep. It was only a few hours later that Tzur understood the cause of the president’s disquiet.
Tzur had received the phone call just as the IAF launched an air strike on Gaza. Peres had understood that during the night many soldiers were in danger of being injured or even killed, and this was the cause of his unrest.
“On that day I understood the meaning of a true leader,” wrote Tzur.