Shimon Peres (About this sound listen ; Hebrew: שמעון פרס‎; born Szymon Perski; August 2, 1923 – September 28, 2016) was an Israeli statesman and the ninth President of Israel, serving from 2007 to 2014.

Early life[]

Shimon Peres was born Szymon Perski, on August 2, 1923,[1][2] in Wiszniew, Poland (now Vishnyeva, Belarus), to Yitzhak (1896–1962) and Sara (1905–1969 née Meltzer) Perski.[3][4] The family spoke Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian at home, and Peres learned Polish at school. He then learned to speak English and French.[5] His father was a wealthy timber merchant, later branching out into other commodities; his mother was a librarian. Peres had a younger brother, Gershon,[6] and was a relative of American film star Lauren Bacall (born Betty Joan Perske).[7]

Shimon Peres (standing, third from right) with his family, ca. 1930

Peres told Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson that he had been born as a result of a blessing his parents had received from a chassidic rebbe and that he was proud of it.[8] Peres' grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Meltzer, a grandson of Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, had a great impact on his life. In an interview, Peres said: "As a child, I grew up in my grandfather's home. … I was educated by him. … My grandfather taught me Talmud. It was not as easy as it sounds. My home was not an observant one. My parents were not Orthodox but I was Haredi. At one point, I heard my parents listening to the radio on the Sabbath and I smashed it."[9] When he was a child, Peres was taken by his father to Radun' to receive a blessing from Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (known as "the Chofetz Chaim").[10] As a child, Peres would later say, "I did not dream of becoming president of Israel. My dream as a boy was to be a shepherd or a poet of stars."[11] He inherited his love of French literature from his maternal grandfather.[12]

"Israeli children should be taught to look to the future, not live in the past. I would rather teach them to imagine than to remember."

Shimon Peres, 2000[13]

In 1932, Peres' father immigrated to Mandatory Palestine and settled in Tel Aviv. The family followed him in 1934.[6] He attended Balfour Elementary School and High School, and Geula Gymnasium (High School for Commerce) in Tel Aviv. At 15, he transferred to Ben Shemen agricultural school and lived on Kibbutz Geva for several years.[6] Peres was one of the founders of Kibbutz Alumot.

In 1941 he was elected Secretary of HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed, a Labor Zionist youth movement, and in 1944 returned to Alumot, where he had an agricultural training and worked as a farmer and a shepherd.[14]

A picture of 13-year-old Shimon Peres taken in 1936.

At age 20, he was elected to the HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed national secretariat, where he was only one of two Mapai party supporters, out of the 12 members. Three years later, he took over the movement and won a majority. The head of Mapai, David Ben-Gurion, and Berl Katznelson began to take an interest in him, and appointed him to Mapai's secretariat.[15]

In 1944, Peres led an illicit expedition into the Negev, then a closed military zone requiring a permit to enter. The expedition, consisting of a group of teenagers, along with a Palmach scout, a zoologist, and an archaeologist, had been funded by Ben-Gurion and planned by Palmach head Yitzhak Sadeh, as part of a plan for future Jewish settlement of the area so as to include it in the Jewish state.[16] The group was arrested by a Bedouin camel patrol led by a British officer, taken to Beersheba (then a small Arab town) and incarcerated in the local jail. All of the participants were sentenced to two weeks in prison, and as the leader, Peres was also heavily fined.[17]

All of Peres' relatives who remained in Wiszniew in 1941 were murdered during the Holocaust,[18] many of them (including Rabbi Meltzer) burned alive in the town's synagogue.[19]

In 1945, Peres married Sonya Gelman, who preferred to remain outside the public eye. They had three children.[20]

In 1946, Peres and Moshe Dayan were chosen as the two youth delegates in the Mapai delegation to the Zionist Congress in Basel.[15]

In 1947, Peres joined the Haganah, the predecessor of the Israel Defense Forces. David Ben-Gurion made him responsible for personnel and arms purchases; he was appointed to head the naval service when Israel received independence in 1948.[16]

Peres was director of the Defense Ministry's delegation in the United States in the early 1950s. While in the U.S. he studied English, economics, and philosophy at The New School and New York University, and advanced management at Harvard University.[21][22][23]


  1. ^ "Shimon Peres". The Knesset's internet site. Retrieved August 28, 2008. 
  2. ^ "Shimon Peres:The Eighth Prime Minister". Prime Minister of Israel's internet site. Retrieved August 28, 2008. 
  3. ^ Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Nobel
  4. ^ "Location of Wiszniew on the map of the Second Polish Republic in the years 1921–1939". 
  5. ^ "Knesset Member, Shimon Peres". Knesset. Retrieved February 13, 2008. 
  6. ^ a b c "Shimon Peres Biography". Academy of Achievement. February 13, 2008. 
  7. ^ "Peres: Not such a bad record after all". The Jerusalem Post. November 10, 2005. Retrieved August 13, 2014. 
  8. ^ Joseph Telushkin. Rebbe. Page 132. HarperCollins, 2014.
  9. ^ Judy L. Beckham (August 2, 2003). "Shimon Peres, 1994 Nobel Peace Prize". Israel Times. 
  10. ^ Levi Julian, Hana (July 12, 2007). "President Shimon Peres Agrees to Keep Shabbat--Once". Arutz Sheva. 
  11. ^ It is true that we have erred, but a bright spring awaits Shimon Peres, Monday July 16, 2007, The Guardian
  12. ^ Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named auto3
  13. ^ Jerusalem Post, May 4, 2000
  14. ^ "SHIMON PERES". Retrieved September 29, 2016. 
  15. ^ a b President Shimon Peres - Seventy years of public service
  16. ^ a b Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named NYTdeath
  17. ^ Gilbert, Martin: Israel: A History (Pages 116–117)
  18. ^ "Peres to German MPs: Hunt down remaining Nazi war criminals". Haaretz. January 27, 2010. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Address by Peres to German Bundestag". January 27, 2010. Retrieved June 12, 2014. 
  20. ^ "Sonia Peres regains consciousness". Ynetnews. May 25, 2007.,7340,L-3404483,00.html. Retrieved May 25, 2007. 
  21. ^ "Biography: Shimon Peres". American Academy of Achievement. 
  22. ^ "Man in the News: Israeli Model of Endurance; Shimon Peres". The New York Times. August 6, 1984. 
  23. ^ Bar-Zohar, Michael (2007). Shimon Peres: The Biography. New York, NY: Random House. pp. 75–76. ISBN 978-1-40-006292-8. 

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Party political offices
Preceded by
Yitzhak Rabin
Leader of the Alignment
Succeeded by
Yitzhak Rabin
Leader of the Labor Party
Succeeded by
Ehud Barak
Preceded by
Amram Mitzna
Leader of the Labor Party
Succeeded by
Amir Peretz
Political offices
Preceded by
Yitzhak Rabin
Prime Minister of Israel

Succeeded by
Menachem Begin
Preceded by
Yitzhak Shamir
Prime Minister of Israel
Succeeded by
Yitzhak Shamir
Preceded by
Yitzhak Rabin
Prime Minister of Israel
Succeeded by
Benjamin Netanyahu
Preceded by
Moshe Katsav
President of Israel
Succeeded by
Reuven Rivlin

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