President Shimon Peres became a holder of two Guinness World Records Thursday, as he taught the largest-ever online civics class and was declared the world’s oldest current head of state, at 90.
Peres delivered the lesson from Cisco Israel headquarters in Netanya live to over 8,500 high school students in more than 200 classrooms across the country, beating the previous record of 5,000 participants.
Marco Frigatti, senior vice president of Guiness World Records, flew into Israel on Wednesday night to be present at Cisco during the lesson and to verify the record if attained. He came with the certificate of recognition already prepared.
“The president of the State of Israel and all the students are Guinness World Record holders,” Frigatti announced.
To Peres, he added: “I have an interesting surprise because you’re holding two records; not only have you taught a wonderful civics lesson but you’re also the oldest head of state in the world.”
It was thought that some 6,500 students would participate in the project, but greater interest was kindled after the president’s spokeswoman put out an advance press release.
Including later viewings of the video, the number of viewers for the class exceeded 9,000.
Peres has streamed live broadcasts from his office. He went to Cisco headquarters for the record because special technology was required to monitor an event of its scope and to track how many people it was reaching.
Some students were able to ask the president questions during the broadcast.
Frigatti said that Guinness liked the idea of this record because it promoted civics and democracy, because it featured a teacher who had “seen the country from its origins to today,” and because it involved “a web-based solution that can be used within education to keep everyone connected and informed.”
Two days earlier, Peres presented Cisco Systems Israel Ltd. with an export prize designated for a multinational company. Israel is the first country outside of the United States in which Cisco established an R&D center.
Cisco Systems Israel CEO Boaz Maoz said before the class that “the initiative aims to boost economic growth and reduce inequality gaps using technology and communication.”
Cisco’s global chairman, John Chambers, has been to Israel and has met with Peres more than once. At his initiative, the company “has been working closely with the Israeli government over the past year and a half in the fields of education, healthcare, infrastructure, communications and cyber,” Maoz said. “The cooperation is aimed at transforming Israel into the world’s first digitized country.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.