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President Shimon Peres made a positive impression in his first meeting on Monday with Beit Hanassi staff members, not just because of the reputation that precedes him, but because of his attitude.
Peres met each staff member, looking them full in the face and asking their names and what they do.
"We didn't need him to be introduced to us," said one staff member who asked not to be quoted by name. "We all know who he is and we're very proud to be working with him."
The neighbors across the street were also happy, and some were hanging over their balconies, cameras ready, to photograph his arrival. Unfortunately, they were disappointed. The car in which Peres was transported to Jerusalem from his private residence in Tel Aviv had the windows shaded.
Speaking with the staff in general terms, Peres emphasized that above all, the presidency must not disappoint the citizens. He respected the employees of Beit Hanassi, he said, and asked them for their full partnership in fulfilling the expectations of the nations' people.
"I want you to understand what a great privilege it is to serve the state," said the man who has done so for more than two thirds of his life.
Moshe Mizrahi, Beit Hanassi's deputy director-general, told Peres that everyone at the presidential residence would help him carry out his role in every possible way.
Prior to his inauguration on Sunday, Peres's staff made no alterations to the presidential Web site. Until late Sunday afternoon, the site contained the biographies and photo albums of former president Moshe Katsav and his wife, Gila.
Only after Peres officially took the oath of office was the Web site changed.
The site currently features no biography of Sonia Peres, which would indicate that she is maintaining her lifelong policy of keeping the home fires burning and not participating in her husband's public life.
On Monday morning, Peres took up residence at Beit Hanassi. Unlike previous presidential moves, the media were not permitted to enter the premises.
Meanwhile, various staff members entered the premises, some carrying huge bags of freshly laundered white shirts.
Other people were coming out of the building - regulars who pray each morning in the Beit Hanassi synagogue, mostly immigrants from the United States.
Israeli media representatives were angry that Peres gave an interview to The Associated Press and CNN before giving any interviews to local outlets, but new Beit Hanassi spokeswoman Ayelet Frish explained that while Israelis were able to hear Peres's inaugural address, interested English-speakers abroad who did not understand Hebrew would have been left out in the cold.
Frish said that no media, other than members of the Government Press Office, had been allowed to record Peres's first day in office because he and his staff were still learning the ropes.
Following his meeting with Beit Hanassi staff, Peres spent much of the rest of the day meeting with Jewish dignitaries from abroad who had come to Israel for the inauguration. Among them was World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder.
A flood of congratulatory messages continued to flow in to Peres's office on Monday - including one from Uganda.
According to a message received by The Jerusalem Post, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni dispatched a senior adviser who had trained with the Foreign Ministry's Mashav program, to urge the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to "revamp bilateral relations... severed by Idi Amin."
On Friday, Peres left the security detail which had been protecting him during his three years as vice premier. Peres commended their devotion to duty and their discretion and said they were "a special breed."
Peres also conveyed the thanks of his wife, Sonia, who may very well owe her life to the guards who took her to a hospital when a pneumonia attack made it difficult for to breathe.
Peres took up his first official duty on Monday evening when he attended a memorial for Ze'ev Jabotinsky - whose political views once represented the opposite end of the spectrum.
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