Shimon Peres 370.
(photo credit: Wikicommons)
What does one give a man as an 89th birthday present? The list recommended by gift-giving experts does not normally include public criticism by the prime minister, or a reception by an all-Muslim town – nor for that manner honorary citizenship from a mixed-population region in the Galilee.
However, President Shimon Peres is set to receive all three. On the day of his birthday celebrations last week, he was castigated by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who said he had forgotten his duties as the president of Israel – after Peres in television interviews stated that Israel alone was unable to launch a military strike against Iran, and should go along with the US.
On Tuesday, Peres will receive far more enjoyable gifts – an Id al-Fitr welcome in Majd el-Kurum (Glory of the Vineyard), named for the high quality of its vineyards; and in the evening, honorary citizenship of Merom Hagalil.
Peres, who last week hosted an iftar dinner for leaders of the Muslim community, will have his hospitality reciprocated in the course of an Id al-Fitr visit marking the conclusion of Ramadan.
During his daylong visit to the northern Galilee town, Peres will meet with Arab notables from across the region, including religious leaders and local council heads. The first of the religious leaders to greet him will be Mohammed Kiwan, the imam of Majd el-Kurum.
Later that day, Peres will extend greetings to Israel’s Muslim community.
One of the gifts Peres is expected to receive throughout the day is a soccer ball.
He has already received several, but this one is special because it bears the signatures of all of the Majd el- Kurum footballers who play in the National League.
The soccer ball will be presented to Peres as a symbol of partnership and equality in sport in Israel.
In the early 1960s, the Israel Development Authority allocated a considerable portion of Majd el-Kurum land for the construction of the town of Karmiel. The town has since developed to the extent that its population of close to 45,000 is roughly three times the size of that of Majd el-Kurum.
Although there have been tensions between the two communities, there have also been cooperative efforts in education, olive picking and the promotion of mutual understanding.
In the evening Peres will visit the Merom Hagalil Education and Community Campus, which was built and is supported through the generosity of British Jews and the Rashi Foundation.
Peres initiated the project after the Second Lebanon War when he served as Negev and Galilee Development Minister and has continued to maintain an interest in it, though this will be the first time he will actually set foot there.
Afterward – at a gala event that some 3,000 people from the region are expected to attend – Peres will be made an honorary citizen of Merom Hagalil. The key performer at the festive concert that will immediately follow will be popular singer Eyal Golan – which may be a reason for the huge turnout, though Peres is popular in his own right.