Peres school children.
(photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
In schools all over Israel on Wednesday, elementary school teachers will greet
thousands of first-year students with the words “Shalom Kita
President Shimon Peres and Education Minister Gideon Saar, who
together with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat were scheduled to join a Jerusalem
teacher in this greeting, started early on Tuesday with a special Shalom Kita
Aleph celebration at Beit Hanassi.
Groups of Jewish and non- Jewish
six-year-olds, both secular and religious, from Daliat al- Carmel, Netanya,
Nazareth, Sderot, Bnei Brak, Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, each distinguished by
the uniform color of their t-shirts or polo shirts, gathered at Beit Hanassi
with school principals, teachers and parents.
When Peres and Saar were
about to enter the room, the children were instructed to stand up. One little
girl wanted to know why.
“Because he’s the most important man in the
country,” said her teacher, referring to Peres.
“But he looks just like a
grandpa,” retorted the youngster, as Peres bent to greet some of the children in
the front row.
Saar, speaking of the children’s first day at school, said
that the start of the school year was a festive day for teachers, children and
parents, but most of all for those who were entering school for the first
“This is your festival – the transition from kindergarten to
school. It will be a little scary at the start because you’ll be the smallest
and you won’t know many of the other children.
But the teacher will
welcome you with a big smile.
You’ll learn to read and write and do sums,
you’ll learn something new every day and you’ll soon make new
How do I know this? Not because I’m the education minister, but
because I was once in first grade, and so was the president and so were your
teachers and parents.”
While Saar was talking, Peres was turning around
to survey the children, and to imagine them as potential future leaders. The
delighted grin on his face spoke volumesas to the extent to which he was
enjoying himself in their company.
Peres, who places great store in
education, told the youngsters that if they want to be strong and successful,
they have to study. “Never forget to study and learn,” he told them.
he asked if anyone had a birthday that day, a boy called Ilya came
Peres led the singing of the birthday song and later put out his
hand to shake that of the birthday boy. Ilya proffered his left
“No, no, the right hand,” said Peres gently. “Give me a
Each of the youngsters went home with a cap bearing the
presidential emblem, a binder and exercise book courtesy of the
Ministry. As they were nearing the exit, each child also got something
appreciated just a little more – a frozen popsicle.