Locals and visitors from around the country and the world flocked in droves to
the succa of President Shimon Peres on Tuesday.
People who had prior
experience of long waits to enter the grounds lined up as early as 7 a.m. in the
capital’s Hanassi Street to be among the first to wish the president a happy
holiday and to shake his hand.
Peres began greeting visitors at 8 a.m. in
the beautifully decorated succa which bore no resemblance to the one he had
decorated a week earlier with the help of children from the Rabin School in
In the interim, the Agriculture Ministry’s Rural Department had
created a magical environment of color in carpeting, tapestry, and unusual
fruit, flower and vegetable displays of amazing size, color and variety, to fit
in with the succa’s theme, which was living a healthy lifestyle.
little over half an hour Peres shook hands, embraced children and posed
endlessly for photographs with groups and individuals. People of all ages and
backgrounds waited patiently in line before entering the succa and their faces
radiated joy as they neared the president.
A couple whose wedding Peres
had attended brought their progeny for him to see.
One woman curtsied. A
man kissed the president’s hand.
Another woman had the audacity to kiss
the president on the mouth – and, to his credit, he did not flinch.
of the many children brought in by parents were shy, bewildered and even sullen.
But Peres, who has an enviable rapport with children, soon had them talking,
smiling and posing with him for the cameras.
Observing the scene, a
foreign correspondent for whom this was a first time experience, told one of the
members of the president’s staff: “I don't know if you understand – but your
boss is a rock star.”
While Peres maintained a happy, smiling disposition
for most of the day, there was one sobering moment when he told reporters that
he was praying for the full recovery and restoration of good health to Shas
spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who has been hospitalized several times
this year and whose condition has been deteriorating.
Peres said that not
only is life important, so is quality of life. There is no doubt that a healthy
person gets more out of life than a sick one, he said and that one healthy day
is worth 10 sick days. He exercises every day, and doesn’t over indulge in
anything he said, commenting that he was living proof of the benefits of a
little exercise and the right nutrition.
“It doesn’t take much – just a
little discipline. The healthier you are, the nicer you are and the more you
like people and people like you.”
In addition to supplying the
decorations, the Agriculture Ministry handed out small boxes containing two
species of tomato, a cucumber and a pepper.
Peres twice approached the
microphone to welcome the thousands of people who had come. He thanked parents
for bringing their children, saying that although Israel has the best fruit,
vegetables and flowers in the world, nothing surpasses its children who are the
sweetest and most wonderful of all. He urged parents to look at their children
again “and realize what we’ve got.”
Health Minister Yael German,
employing the slogan of the national campaign said efshar bari (“healthy is
possible”) and cited Peres as a fine example of engaging in exercise and not
eating too much or too little.
Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir recalled
that the Bible describes Israel as a land of milk and honey “and we'll make sure
that it stays that way” he pledged.
“We lost our land and after 2,000
years we came back and made it flourish again.”
Land that is not tended
can be lost again, he warned, with an undertone that was as much political as it
Hundreds of people who arrived late were still waiting
to enter the succa as the day’s activities concluded.
They didn't get to
meet the president nor to enjoy the entertainment – but they were eventually
allowed into the succa, which was inspirational to anyone who knew how barren
Israel had been less than a century ago.
What was on display surpassed
the quality of the best upscale fruit and vegetable stores and was a tribute to
Israeli tenacity and ingenuity.
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