Peres in The Hague 370.
(photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the views of President Shimon
Peres, his contribution to any positive image that Israel has in the world
cannot be denied.
At 90, Peres is currently the world’s oldest head of
state – and it’s not just a matter of chronology. He also happens to be healthy
in mind and body, and has extraordinary mental and physical stamina for a person
his age. He can respond to a series of comments made by speakers at a
conference, recalling their remarks in the correct order, and can stand or walk
for long periods, as frequently happens when he receives the credentials of
foreign diplomats or hosts receptions for visiting heads of state.
a frequent flier who in his present capacity has represented Israel in some two
dozen European and Asian countries, as well as in North and South America.
Unless he returns home on a Thursday or Friday, there is no gap in his working
week. He immediately resumes his duties, which inter alia include partially or
fully writing his own speeches and holding regular meetings with the prime
minister, heads of the intelligence and defense establishments, and leading
academics – especially those dealing with hi-tech or brain research – captains
of industry and prominent cultural figures.
Peres is a man who likes to
keep his finger on the pulse of all that is happening around him, and is
thrilled by innovation. He hosts receptions for social welfare organizations,
think tanks, academic institutions, sporting organizations, ecumenical groups,
the diplomatic community and more. He is in frequent communication with
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and with Israel’s Arab
Foreign dignitaries and missions to Israel literally beg to
meet him and, better still, be photographed with him. If Peres charged a token
fee to every person with whom he has posed for a photo, and contributed the
proceeds to the government, he might reduce Israel’s national deficit by a
Also fluent in English and French, he can spontaneously
deliver a one-hour speech in either of those languages, and has been known to
throw away a prepared text because of a last-minute development.
most people his age are very set in their ways, Peres is spontaneous and goes
with the flow. He travels to towns, villages and IDF bases all over the country
and is an avid theater and concert goer. He is an annual visitor to the Ein Gev
He has a remarkable rapport with young children and never
patronizes them, but talks to them as if they are adults. He is also
extraordinarily well read, and when meeting visitors from abroad will often
quote from one or more of their country’s most famous authors or
He has met many of the world leaders of the 20th century, several
of whom were personal friends. He loves to tell stories about them to new
ambassadors representing those countries. So many of these leaders have faded
from the world stage while he himself soldiers on.
Despite many failures
in his long political career and quest for peace, Peres remains the eternal
optimist and, even at 90, a renaissance man.Read more person of the year articles: