Peres
Shimon Peres, Israel’s ninth president, turns 90 on August 2. Part of the prestigious Presidential Conference, taking place on June 18-20, will be dedicated to celebrating his entry into his nonagenarian years.

International stars of the political firmament such as former heads of state Bill Clinton of the US, Mikhail Gorbachev of the former Soviet Union, and Tony Blair of Britain will be coming to fete him. Also present will be heavy-duty celebrities such as actor Robert De Niro and singer Barbra Streisand, who will hopefully croon a ballad or two – whether Marilyn Monroe-style is debatable.

At the age of 89, Peres is currently the world’s oldest head of state, as well as the fifth oldest head of state ever under a republican constitution. Whether or not you agree with his politics, there’s no denying that he is a political legend and very much a part of the fabric of the history of the Jewish State.

In honor of this upcoming milestone, let’s take a moment to cover some interesting facts about the man that is Shimon Peres:

• Peres was born “Szymon Perski” in Wiszniew, Poland.

• Peres has an impressive rabbinical ancestry.

• His serious involvement with the State of Israel was cemented in 1947, when he joined the Hagana, the predecessor of the Israel Defense Forces. Future prime minister David Ben-Gurion made him responsible for personnel and arms purchases.

• Peres was sworn into office on July 15, 2007, for a seven-year term. He is the first former prime minister to be elected Israel’s president.

• While Peres was once considered a hawk, he is now seen as more of a dove.

• In November 2008, he received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth in London’s Buckingham Palace.

• In June 2012, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President Barack Obama.

• Politics has affected his home life. When Peres won the presidency, his wife, Sonya, who had not wanted him to accept the position, announced she would stay in their apartment in Tel Aviv, and would not join him in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. The couple thereafter lived separately, and she died in January 2011 at the age of 87.

• In a celebrity twist, he is the first cousin of famous American actress Lauren Bacall.

Deserving its own paragraph is Peres’s wry sense of humor: he recently asked a visiting Finnish official whether it was true that Finland’s legislators conduct business in the Jacuzzi.

As the big day approaches, let’s all wish President Peres a yom huledet sameach!

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