President Shimon Peres turned 90 on Friday (on the Gregorian calendar). Among the gifts he received was a bipartisan vote in the US Congress to award him the Congressional Gold Medal.

It and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which Peres received in June 2012, are the highest civilian awards in the United States. It is awarded to persons “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.” Peres will be the first sitting president of Israel to receive this award.

The proposal to award Peres with the Congressional Gold Medal for his 90th birthday and to mark the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel was initiated by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), Sen.

Michael Bennett (D-Colorado), Rep. Joe Kennedy (DMassachusetts) and Rep.

Trent Franks (R-Arizona), who on Thursday introduced bipartisan bicameral legislation to honor Peres with the medal.

“President Peres’s extraordinary record of service has helped strengthen the unbreakable bond between the US and Israel, our closest and most stalwart ally in the Middle East,” Ayotte said.

The legislation demonstrates that the people of Israel and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of extraordinarily uncertain times, she added.

Bennett said that Peres “embodies the very best of a US-Israel relationship forged by our shared commitment to democracy, human rights, and rule of law. In a world that today is more complicated than ever, President Peres’s historic career will serve as a beacon for the next generation of leaders. This bill celebrates and honors his leadership as one of Israel’s most dedicated public servants.”

Kennedy noted the decades in which Peres has dedicated himself to the enduring bond that unites Israel and the United States. “There has been no greater champion for our shared values and defender of our shared interests,” he said.

“President Shimon Peres has embodied a commitment to the mutual values shared by the United States and Israel – values that include the preservation of life, faith, family and freedom,” said Franks.

Outgoing Ambassador to the US Michael Oren said he welcomed the decision to honor his country’s president in such a meaningful way.

“President Peres has inspired generations of Americans and Israelis with his optimism and dedication to peace, and this award would be another testimony to the deep and unwavering relationship between our countries,” said Oren.

Rabbi David Baron, spiritual leader of Temple of the Arts at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills and chairman of the Clergy Cabinet of the Shimon Peres Congressional Gold Medal Commemoration Committee, said: “President Peres’s achievements as a global statesman reinforce the core American value of preserving liberty and freedom for all people.”

“Shimon Peres is a symbol of the bridge that defines the US Israel relationship,” said Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group, which spearheaded the formation of the committee. “Honoring President Peres with the Congressional Gold Medal is an acknowledgment of the role that Congress played in the development of the US-Israel relationship since its establishment 65 years ago,” he said.

Before going to America to receive the award, Peres has some urgent business to attend to on Sunday with another country – Spain.

At noon, Peres will host the directors and players of the Barcelona Football Club who are on a peace mission. They arrived in Israel on Saturday, went to Bethlehem and Ramallah where they met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other dignitaries and later played with Palestinian youngsters at Dura Stadium near Hebron.

The Barcelona delegation is headed by the club’s president Sandro Rossell and includes star players Lionel Messi, Neymar (Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior), Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat and Education Minister Shai Piron will also attend the reception at the President’s Residence, to jointly emphasize the important contribution that sport can make to peace and tolerance as well as acceptance and understanding of the other.

On Sunday evening, the visitors from Barcelona are scheduled to play a peace match with Israeli Jewish and Arab youngsters and possibly some Palestinian junior footballers at Bloomfield stadium in Jaffa, with a presidential kick-off by Peres to start the game.

Peres is currently the world’s oldest head of state, and, as far as is known, the public servant with the longest unbroken record of service to the state, dating from the pre-state era to the present day.

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