Inclement weather caused President Shimon Peres to cancel his plans to visit the Hula Valley and to participate in the State Memorial Ceremony marking the 94th anniversary of the death of Joseph Trumpeldor who became a Zionist hero when in 1920 he fell in battle while defending the settlement of Tel Hai in the northern region of the country.
Instead Peres invited the children of the Arlozorov Kindergarten adjacent to the President’s Residence to come and join him on Thursday morning in celebrating Purim.
The festivities were timed to start and 9.30 a.m. and the twenty plus tiny tots aged three and four were there well in advance with their teachers and parents as were two young sisters from the south, Lia and Mica Cohen from Ein Besor in the Eshkol region of the north western Negev who were last minute invitees following the rocket attack from Gaza on communities along the Gaza Strip.
Young children are usually restless and have a short attention span, but these youngsters could have taught Knesset members a lesson in self control and good behavior.
Peres was caught up in a meeting when they arrived, and thus the Purim Party was some 15 minutes behind schedule.
With one or two exceptions, the youngsters, dressed in their Purim costumes, sat patiently and responded to any request made of them by their teachers or members of the President’s staff.
The staff put them through paces several times getting them to sing Purim songs. The hefty repertoire of children so young, was surprising.
Peres walked in as they were in the middle of a song, clapped his hands in appreciation and began singing with them.
He welcomed the Cohen sisters, commended their courage asked them to talk about the ordeal to which they had been subjected the previous evening and declared that regardless of any threat Israel would continue with life as usual and would celebrate Purim to the hilt.. The sisters said that they were not particularly afraid because their parents had been with them and they also knew that the army would defend them. The younger of the two said that she wishes Israel could be a normal country like any other, so that such things would not happen.
Peres sent good wishes from Jerusalem to all the children of the south. Then turning to the kindergarten children, he got several of them to parade in front of him and to describe their costumes. One child who was dressed Kermit the frog, was serenaded by Peres with a song about a frog. Other youngsters came as Queen Esther, a king, a ninja, a policeman, a cowboy, the Lion King, the Queen of Hearts, a Power Ranger, Speedy, a wizard and a princess.
Peres distributed cellophane wrapped packages of candy to each of the children.
He later issued a statement in which he said that the State of Israel would respond in kind to any firing from Gaza. “Last night the Israel Air Force did what it had to do”, said Peres in relation to Israel’s retaliation against Islamic Jihad. At the same time Peres placed the onus of responsibility for the barrage of rockets from Gaza on Hamas explaining that the Hamas leadership always claims responsibility for everything that happens in Gaza. The State of Israel will not tolerate any assault on her citizens, said Peres. If Hamas wants to live, it has to be aware that each time it fires on Israel, Israel will fire back. Whenever Hamas has a ceasefire, Israel will have a ceasefire.
Peres also praised the stoicism of the residents of the south and wished them a happy Purim. The hearts of all Israelis have been with them since Wednesday, he said. He particularly wished a happy Purim to the children of the south “who so much deserve to have a happy Purim” and them that he was proud of them.