by Dennis Daily, ASSIST News Service
There is no doubt that when people heard of the death of former Israeli Prime Minister and President, Shimon Peres, the name will ring some kind of bell. And that’s not surprising, for much of his more than nine decades on this earth, Peres was omni-present in Israeli life.
The 93 year-old died after suffering a massive stroke two weeks ago. He was reported to be making progress, but doctors said that he took a turn for the worse Tuesday and died today (Wednesday, September 28, 2016), at the Sheba Medical Center, Ramat Gan, Israel.
Peres was born Szymon Perski in Poland, in the early 1920s. With his family, he saw firsthand the creeping oppression of the Nazi regime as it, first through a massive wave of anti-Jewish propaganda and later by overt action, started an eastern European-wide pogrom.
While growing up in Poland, Peres began to absorb a variety of languages, which, in some part accounted for his interesting accent in later life. At home, his family spoke Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian. Peres had to learn proper Polish in school. Eventually he would learn French, Hebrew and English.
His early days were fairly stable. The son of a wealthy merchant in timber and a librarian, the young Peres excelled at school. Realizing what was happening in Europe, Peres’ father relocated to Palestine, eventually ending up in Tel Aviv. Two years later he sent for the rest of the family. All of Shimon Peres’ relatives who did not relocate to the Middle East would eventually die in the Holocaust.
Peres was still in his teens when he found himself a political activist. Many who saw him at an early age knew that he would later seek some kind of leadership position. With the founding of the Nation of Israel Peres began to rise through the ranks. In 1953 he became the new nation’s youngest-ever major leader, chosen to the Director-General of the Ministry of Defense. This position meant that he was in the middle of the planning for operations during the 1956 conflict over the Suez. He was instrumental in setting up a system of gaining much-needed armaments from French manufacturers.
His political star was on the rise. In 1959 he was elected to the national assembly, the Knesset. He would go on to hold many important positions in the Israeli government before finally being elected to its highest office.
His political career in the Jewish state spanned more than 65 years. He served in more than a dozen of the nation’s governments and was its head of state for seven years, beginning in 2007. His political career was a flexible one. During his more than half a century serving his country, Peres represented five different political parties in the Knesset. He was the first former Prime Minister to be elected President of Israel.
In 1964, along with Yitzhak Rabin, Peres was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yasser Arafat shared the prize for the trio’s work that led to the so-called Oslo Accords. Many say that Shimon Peres became such a stable influence in Israeli politics because of his never-say-die attitude. He is best remembered as once telling a group: “Optimists and pessimists die the same way. They just live differently. I prefer to live as an optimist.”
Upon the announcement of his death, several commentators noted that for a man who worked so hard to build a strong military for his country, he worked equally hard to try to insure a lasting peace.
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