‘Shalom Kita Aleph’: Peres, Saar greet new students

President tells youngsters that if they want to be strong and successful, they have to study.

Peres school children (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
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 Aleph.”
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 time.
“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 friends.
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.
When he asked if anyone had a birthday that day, a boy called Ilya came forward.
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 hand.
“No, no, the right hand,” said Peres gently. “Give me a strong grip.”
Each of the youngsters went home with a cap bearing the presidential emblem, a binder and exercise book courtesy of the Education Ministry. As they were nearing the exit, each child also got something they appreciated just a little more – a frozen popsicle.