Locals and visitors from around the country and the world flocked in droves to the succa of President Shimon Peres on Tuesday.People who had prior experience of long waits to enter the grounds lined up as early as 7 a.m. in the capital’s Hanassi Street to be among the first to wish the president a happy holiday and to shake his hand.Peres began greeting visitors at 8 a.m. in the beautifully decorated succa which bore no resemblance to the one he had decorated a week earlier with the help of children from the Rabin School in Malha.In the interim, the Agriculture Ministry’s Rural Department had created a magical environment of color in carpeting, tapestry, and unusual fruit, flower and vegetable displays of amazing size, color and variety, to fit in with the succa’s theme, which was living a healthy lifestyle.For a little over half an hour Peres shook hands, embraced children and posed endlessly for photographs with groups and individuals. People of all ages and backgrounds waited patiently in line before entering the succa and their faces radiated joy as they neared the president.A couple whose wedding Peres had attended brought their progeny for him to see.One woman curtsied. A man kissed the president’s hand.Another woman had the audacity to kiss the president on the mouth – and, to his credit, he did not flinch. Some of the many children brought in by parents were shy, bewildered and even sullen. But Peres, who has an enviable rapport with children, soon had them talking, smiling and posing with him for the cameras.Observing the scene, a foreign correspondent for whom this was a first time experience, told one of the members of the president’s staff: “I don't know if you understand – but your boss is a rock star.”While Peres maintained a happy, smiling disposition for most of the day, there was one sobering moment when he told reporters that he was praying for the full recovery and restoration of good health to Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who has been hospitalized several times this year and whose condition has been deteriorating.Peres said that not only is life important, so is quality of life. There is no doubt that a healthy person gets more out of life than a sick one, he said and that one healthy day is worth 10 sick days. He exercises every day, and doesn’t over indulge in anything he said, commenting that he was living proof of the benefits of a little exercise and the right nutrition.“It doesn’t take much – just a little discipline. The healthier you are, the nicer you are and the more you like people and people like you.”In addition to supplying the decorations, the Agriculture Ministry handed out small boxes containing two species of tomato, a cucumber and a pepper.Peres twice approached the microphone to welcome the thousands of people who had come. He thanked parents for bringing their children, saying that although Israel has the best fruit, vegetables and flowers in the world, nothing surpasses its children who are the sweetest and most wonderful of all. He urged parents to look at their children again “and realize what we’ve got.” Health Minister Yael German, employing the slogan of the national campaign said efshar bari (“healthy is possible”) and cited Peres as a fine example of engaging in exercise and not eating too much or too little.Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir recalled that the Bible describes Israel as a land of milk and honey “and we'll make sure that it stays that way” he pledged.“We lost our land and after 2,000 years we came back and made it flourish again.”Land that is not tended can be lost again, he warned, with an undertone that was as much political as it was agricultural.Hundreds of people who arrived late were still waiting to enter the succa as the day’s activities concluded.They didn't get to meet the president nor to enjoy the entertainment – but they were eventually allowed into the succa, which was inspirational to anyone who knew how barren Israel had been less than a century ago.What was on display surpassed the quality of the best upscale fruit and vegetable stores and was a tribute to Israeli tenacity and ingenuity.