Shimon Peres 311.
(photo credit: AP)
President Shimon Peres, who turns 87 on August 2, shows no signs of slowing down.
The presidency is supposed to be a largely ceremonial position with little clout and not too much activity, but Peres has often tried to resolve crises.
Peres, who on July 15 completes the third year of his seven-year term,
is a workaholic who needs little sleep and works an 18-hour day. He is
always dreaming up new projects and meeting with the people who can
implement them. In numerous meetings with foreign leaders and interviews
with foreign media he puts Israel’s case to the world.
He meets regularly with the nation’s political leaders and heads of the
security and defense establishment.
He receives thousands of letters, many of which he sees, but all of
which are handled by his office, often with numerous follow-ups.
In addition to all that, he frequents the theater, concerts and music
festivals. He is also a voracious reader and a news junkie.
Aside from all that, he finds time to write poetry.
Peres met on Wednesday with journalists who cover events at Beit
Hanassi, reviewed the past three years, and spoke of his plans.
During his three years in office, Peres had 700 meetings with heads of
state, prime ministers, parliamentary leaders, special envoys and heads
of international organizations such as the United Nations and the
Peres has given around 600 interview to foreign media in addition to the
many spontaneous and pre-arranged interviews that he gives to Israeli
Peres launched his own YouTube channel in December 2009. He’s had 300
meetings with top brass responsible for Israel’s security, in addition
to which he’s visited army, navy and air force bases, toured
intelligence headquarters and participated in umpteen IDF ceremonies.
He also visits wounded soldiers in hospital, and the families of
soldiers who have fallen in the line of duty. He has been very
supportive of the family of abducted soldier Gilad Schalit.
He’s paid 27 state visits abroad and 113 visits to settlements and
regional councils in Israel, making a point of meeting new immigrants,
the weaker sectors of society, minority communities, scholars,
entrepreneurs, scientists and people working in hi-tech.
At Beit Hanassi, Peres has hosted more than 260 events including the
annual memorial for Yitzhak Rabin, the installation of the new
government last spring, and the annual bar mitzva ceremony for those
whose father or mother died on active service in the IDF,.
Projects that he encourages with the full approval of the government
include opportunities for academic study toward a degree for everyone
serving in the army; integration of the Arab community into the work
force and society; hi-tech studies for Arab students; R&D exchanges
and cooperation between Israeli researchers and those of other
countries; and the annual Facing Tomorrow mega conferences that bring
some of the world’s finest minds to Israel.
Peres took a modest attitude to his achievements, crediting his staff
and insisting that it was a team effort in which “we’re sensitive to all
that concerns the public.” He has no hankering for a return to
political life. He prefers to look forward rather than back.
Speaking of the work of his office, Peres said: “We have no desire to
We just want to help where we can.”
He emphasized the importance of Jewish unity and Jewish values, and said
that Israel must meet the challenges of making itself attractive to
“The first chapter in the Zionist saga is over. We are no longer a
haven. Jews live relatively well in the world and in order to bring more
Jews to Israel we have to be attractive and competitive.”
Much of the exchange between Peres and the reporters was off the record,
but he did agree to go public on the subject of Schalit and was
cautiously optimistic that even though reaching an agreement with Hamas
would be difficult, the day that Schalit returns home would not be long
Asked what he would do when his term comes to an end in four years,
Peres replied that science is moving at such a rapid pace that he was
certain that sooner or later there would be fitness clubs for the mind
as well as for the body.
“When that happens, I’ll be the first to sign up,” he said.