In what is a very rare moment in his life these days, President Shimon Peres on
Thursday found himself to be one of the youngest people in the room. The
occasion was a reception co-hosted by the president and Dr. Lea Ness, deputy
senior citizens minister, in honor of Israeli citizens over age
Around the world, October 1 is celebrated as senior citizen’s day,
but the ministry has extended that to the whole month in Israel. Ness, aware of
the significance of so many elderly Holocaust survivors and war veterans in the
country, is devoting the month to highlighting the contributions of the
country’s oldest citizens to the founding of the state. The National Insurance
Institute estimates there are over 1,000 citizens age 100 and up in the
When Peres, 89, entered the main reception hall, his face was
wreathed in smiles, as he shook hands with a bevy of men and women who were all
older than him.
In addition to the dozens of centenarians present, up to
three generations of family members were in attendance. Family members and
caregivers alike jumped up throughout the ceremony to snap photos, despite
repeated requests by moderator Natan Datner, the star of the Cameri Theater
production of Fiddler on the Roof, that they remain in their seats so as not to
obscure the view of the television crews and news photographers.
was thrilled to address the many triple-digit age attendees.
look at me as if I’ve just come from kindergarten,” he said to them, “but I look
at you as people who turned the State of Israel into a flourishing garden. You
created something from nothing,” he told his guests. “We were a tiny country
without water, without oil, without gold, with swamps and desert and a harsh
climate. And out of all that, you built a state and a
Collectively he said, the centenarians represented 10,000 years
of the history of the State of Israel.
Instead of talking about red lines
on Iran – the way Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been doing for the past
month – Peres spoke of a red line on age. There should be no red line to mark a
cut-off age for anything, he said, adding that people should live as long as
Looking around him he said: “You have proved that one can reach
100 without growing old.” Peres confessed that he doesn’t like being referred to
as a pensioner and that he seldom takes vacation. He just enjoys working, and
his work day often extends beyond 12 hours. He urged the senior citizens to tell
their grandchildren and great-grandchildren about their experiences in life, so
that they too would be inspired to give of themselves for the benefit of the
Three of the centenarians present conducted video interviews
before the event that were shown on large screens.
Shmuel Zaharoni, 100,
originally from Yemen and now living in Tel Aviv, said that he likes to be
independent and prepares his own meals. He says his recipe for longevity is to
laugh often, to refrain from getting angry, to try to be calm and to thank God
daily for the gift of a land of milk and honey.
Polish-born Nina Kaplan,
102, who came to Israel from Brazil and lives in Netanya, moves around without
the aid of a cane or walker. She appeared in the video buying vegetables and
cooking in her kitchen, even making her own dough. She has 31
Lithuanian-born Zippora Sandler, 100, who lives in
Rehovot, said there is no one in the world like Peres and she wants to thank him
for everything he does. She also declared that she was proud that women were
mothers of the nation.
“I don’t have another country. Everything here is
great. If you don’t believe in that, you can’t live here,” she
Ness, like Peres, referred to the collective history of the senior
citizens and their contributions to the state.
“You don’t have to read a
history book. You lived history and that’s what you see when you look back.”
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