Happy birthday, Mr. President!

Young in spirit, Shimon Peres turns a vigorous 87.

Shimon Peres 311 (photo credit: AP)
Shimon Peres 311
(photo credit: AP)
President Shimon Peres celebrates his 87th birthday on August 2nd.
Peres remains young in spirit, mentally alert, capable of extemporaneously delivering in-depth speeches, up to date on national and international news, curious about new developments in science and technology, au fait with the latest in literature, and engaging when talking to young people.
Straight-backed and able to maintain a walking pace with people half his age, Peres often spends hours on his feet. He often prefers stairs to elevators.
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He still finds time to write both poetry and prose. He recently completed a biography about his mentor David Ben-Gurion that is due to be published by Schocken next year.
By the Hebrew calendar, Peres celebrated his birthday this past weekend. He was born on the 20th of Av, a date he seems to have remembered only after taking office as president three years ago.
Before that, his CV listed his Gregorian calendar birthday as August 16, 1923. Last year, at the initiative of producer and composer Kobi Oshrat, an album of songs written by Peres and performed by some of the country’s leading singers, was launched at a celebrity concert in Tel Aviv on August 16.
This year, Peres will be honored, again on August 16, at a celebrity studded variety show at the Cameri Theater in the same city.
Peres has been the oldest elected head of state in the world since last year, when Fiji’s president, Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda, resigned at age 88.
Peres has been known to briefly close his eyes in public, but it happens infrequently, and when it does, it’s only for a few seconds.
If Peres completes his sevenyear term, he will be 91.
The president maintains a grueling schedule, rising before dawn hours to catch up with his reading and writing, and launching into his daily round of meetings at 8 a.m. – sometimes even earlier.
Last month, when he celebrated his third year in office, Peres admitted to reporters that he does occasionally miss the controversial aspects of politics, but he doesn’t miss being a politician.
He had enjoyed all the roles he had played in the development of the state, he said, but regretted the time wasted in arguments, power struggles and administrative work.
Something he jokingly hints about changing is the time honored Jewish birthday wish – “to 120,” as Moses is said to have lived to that age. Peres hopes to be around for a few more decades.
The only true blight on the presidency is the separation from his wife of 65 years, Sonia, who has always shunned the limelight and did not participate in his public life other than during his first stint as prime minister.
She did not want him to run for president, but rather to remain at home with her during their twilight years.
Peres has said that he would love to spend weekends at his home in Ramat Aviv, but that under the circumstances, that was not possible.
Career-wise he has no regrets, saying these had been the three happiest years of his career.
Happy birthday, Mr. President.