Peres kicks off Senior Citizens month at Beit Hanassi

President also opened the 50th-anniversary door-knock campaign of the Israel Cancer Association.

Peres with old people 311 (photo credit: Meytal Yeslovitz)
Peres with old people 311
(photo credit: Meytal Yeslovitz)
President Shimon Peres kicked off Senior Citizens Month on Sunday at Beit Hanassi by hosting nine elderly citizens of different backgrounds, including one or two that might regard him as a spring chicken.
Peres, 87, is usually the oldest person in the room at an official or social presidential event, unless his good friend and Israel’s fifth president Yitzhak Navon, 89, is also in attendance.
But on Sunday, even without Navon, there were people who were born before Peres. Among them were writer and lecturer Geula Bat Yehuda Raphael, 92, who is the widow of the state’s first religious affairs minister, Yitzhak Raphael, and the daughter of Yehuda Leib Fishman Maimon, who helped draft and was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence; educator Adam Ben Chanoch, 89, who founded the school on Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi, where he and his wife Ilse have lived for 62 years, and who now volunteers twice a week as an education counselor at the Hula Valley High School; Issaschar Goldstein, 101, who was seriously injured in the riots of 1939 and later owned the legendary Tnuva café in Jerusalem, as well as the Patt gas station.
Others just slightly younger than Peres, but certainly an active part of his generation, included former Druse MK Amal Nasser el-Din, 82, who is both a bereaved father and grandfather to two generations of relatives killed in active IDF duty, and who now devotes much of his time to advocating peace and equality; singer of the underground movements and former member of the Palmach, Shulamit Livnat, mother of Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat; Margalit Zanati, 79, whose family has lived uninterrupted in the upper Galilee Druse village of Pe’ekin since the Second Temple period; Bilha Castel, the widow of renowned artist Moshe Castel, whose mural and other works are on permanent display at Beit Hanassi; geography and cartography expert, Dr.
Shimshon Livni, one of the founders of Kibbutz Lahav in the Negev; and cardiologist Dr.
Esther Shapira, 85, who returned to work at Ichilov Hospital, where she is still on staff, 20 years after initially retiring.
Colonel (res.) David ‘Migdal’ Teperson, who will celebrate his 84th birthday on October 6, served in the IDF since 1948 when he came as a volunteer from South Africa. He insisted on continuing reserve duty after reaching retirement age and was to have been among the president’s special guests, but absented himself due to the death of his wife Shoshana, whose funeral was held on Sunday.
Likud MK Leah Ness, who initiated the event, said that today, every 10th person in Israel is a senior citizen, totalling 750,000. That number will be equivalent to the quantity of children in Israel by 2030, she said. By law a person becomes a senior citizen at age 65, but, according to Ness, with the enormous changes that have occurred in society, that age is now comparatively young.
What was important, she emphasized, is to put content into the lives of senior citizens, and to give them the dignity and respect to which they are entitled.
Studies show that continuing social and physical activity help to prolong life, she said, and with this in mind, her ministry has been introducing a steady series of third age projects.
Ness lamented the fact that many senior citizens are not aware of their rights with regard to national authorities and institutions, and she has therefore formulated legislation that will make it compulsory for all organizations and institutions that provide special allowances for senior citizens, and that such allowances are well publicized.
Noting that young people know a lot more today than their peers of previous of previous generations, Peres said: “Young people are old in what they can do and old people are young in what they can still do. To be a senior citizen is not a sin, but a matter of pride. An elderly person can still grow older and make a valuable contribution along the way based on the experience gained in living for so long,” he said.
Following in the tradition of his predecessors since the time of the state’s second president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, President Shimon Peres on Tuesday officially opened the 50th-anniversary door-knock campaign of the Israel Cancer Association.
Peres is the patron of the campaign whose chairman Efi Rosenhaus, the president and CEO of the Super-Sol chain of supermarkets, set the ball rolling with a donation of NIS 1 million.
As of Tuesday night, school children all over the country will be knocking on doors to collect donations and to simultaneously create greater awareness of cancer.
In keeping with the anniversary, 50 children wearing oversized campaign T-shirts grouped themselves around Peres. They were all cancer patients who have completed or are still undergoing treatment.
Coral, 14, who has successfully emerged from four years of treatment, spoke of the pain, discomfort and uncertainty that accompanied her during this period, as well as the loss of hair and other side effects. She also spoke of the tremendous support she had received from doctors and nurses, and said that her ambition now was to study medicine. One of the signs of her recovery was her shoulder-length hair.
Millions of people have lost their lives in conflict on the battlefield, said Peres, but just as many have lost their lives battling cancer.
“The war against cancer was probably the greatest war that Man waged against what for years was considered to be the Angel of Death, and seemed to be a lost battle,” he said.
However in recent years, Peres continued, “we have learned that this is not necessarily the true picture. Cancer does not have to be a death sentence. It can be overcome with new, modern medicine and technologies.”
He underscored that treatment is based not only on the nature of the disease but also on the investment in the treatment.
He regretted that even when a miracle drug is discovered, the cost is often beyond what most families can afford.
It takes far too long to approve many new drugs, and too many people who could have been helped die in the interim, he said.
He praised the enterprise of the door-knock campaign. “You restore the right to live to a lot of people,” he told hundreds of volunteers at Beit Hanassi. “You are doing holy work.”
In this context he mentioned Amit Kadosh, a Kfar Saba girl with leukemia who went to America in late 2008 for a bone marrow transplant at age six. It was an almost hopeless case – but in the end, she succeeded in her struggle.
Peres recalled seeing on television, the joy of the child when she returned home to Israel, and found it very moving. He was also moved by the successful struggle of singer and actress Sharon Haziz, who has become a loyal volunteer for the Israel Cancer Association.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, while commending the work of the ICA, said that much more must be done in the war against cancer.
He said he planned to ask the International Union Against Cancer to request all countries to divert some of their defense budgets to cancer research. He also wanted to do more to fight unnecessary radiation.
Haziz recounted how her life had changed, when at age 36 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She discovered that she was stronger than she had realized, and that because she was a well-known personality, she was in a position to help and encourage others. The most important thing was never ever to lose hope, Haziz said.
ICA chairman and senior oncologist Eliezer Robinson presented some of the latest cancer statistics and forms of treatment, including new technologies for more efficient treatment of children with leukemia.
Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, whose early research in chemistry was aided by ICA scholarships, is the honorary president of ICA. He had been moved to tears, he said, when listening to Coral, and prayed that she would realize her dream to study medicine.
He emphasized the importance of demystifying cancer, stressing that 60 percent of cases were curable, though unfortunately 40% still represent an insurmountable challenge.
“I don’t want the ICA to celebrate a second campaign jubilee,” he said. “I hope that by then we won’t have to worry about cancer in Israel, because we will have vanquished it.”