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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Vice Premier Shimon Peres is usually on the other side of the microphone answering the questions of an interviewer. But on Sunday, a couple of hours before the official opening of the Jerusalem International Book Fair, it was Peres who was doing the questioning.
Peres had agreed to participate in a Steimatzky book store promotion aimed at encouraging children to read more.
Some 50 children aged around 6 to 8 sat on a carpet of artificial grass on the floor of the Jerusalem International Convention Center.
A grandfather several times over, the man who frequently engages in conversations with royalty, heads of state, diplomats, and politicians had no trouble finding an instant rapport with youngsters who were three-quarters of a century his junior.
The children responded without shyness.
Peres shook hands with those who were nearest him and then plied them all with questions, repeating the answers in a slow-paced tempo so that they would understand that he had all the patience in the world for them.
"Who reads books?" he asked.
Nearly every hand shot up. The more voracious readers were ready to share information about their forays into literature.
A boy called Barak told Peres he'd read a book about a mother.
"Was she a good mother?" inquired Peres, who received an affirmative reply.
"Who's read a book of poems?" he continued. "Who likes adventure books?"
The children drew the vice premier into the intricate world of Harry Potter, and several told him they planned to be writers.
The conversation soon turned to thoughts of love. "Who wants to write a poem about love?" Peres asked.
"I do," declared one eager little boy. "Are you in love with a special girl or you just want to write about love in general?" queried Peres.
If the youngster was smitten with anyone of the opposite sex, he was not about to announce it to the world.
Peres told the young audience: "At your age, I read a lot of books, and books were my friends. The more you read, the more you'll think. Do you know what it is to fantasize? Do you know what it means to dream?"
Many of the children seemed to understand Peres's love of books and explained why they preferred books to television.
"You can choose any book you want to read and you can learn more," said one. "With television you have to take what they give you and it's boring," another added.
"With a book you can use your imagination. With television you can't," was a third opinion.