"Today I'm no longer interested in what they say about me. I know my mission and will fulfill it to the end..." - Shimon Peres
The triple fanfare, which sounded in the main hall of the Israeli Parliament - the Knesset, informed the assembly that the festive ceremony has commenced. Shimon Peres, the legendary patriarch of Middle Eastern politics, has assumed the post of the ninth President of Israel. Peres' face shone with happiness and confidence. Countless dignitaries stood in line to congratulate the new President. But very few of the over a thousand guests knew the *real* reason for the triumph, which crowned the eighty-four-year long path of this extraordinary man.
Semyon Perski was born in 1923 in the small hamlet of of Vishnevo, located today on the territory of Belarus. The Perski family soon moved to Palestine. The young and talented Zionist shortened his surname into a Hebrew version, and became Shimon Peres. A short time later Shimon joined the Zionist Youth Movement, and became this group's Secretary at age 18.
Five years later he was already representing the MAPAI party at the World Zionist Congress in Bazel. And at age 26 he was appointed Assistant to the Director of the Defense Ministry, in the newly formed State of Israel. Peres was in charge of arms acquisition for the new Jewish State, and in 1949 he went to the US as head of the Defense Ministry delegation.
There, in New York, Peres was introduced for the first time in his life to his cousin of similar age, one Betty Joan Perski, who had been born in the New World already. Happy at reuniting with a close part of his family and meeting his first cousin, Shimon could not fathom how his life would radically change from that moment on. Although who knows, perhaps all of this was predestined beforehand...
The fateful meeting
Peres' New York cousin was much better know to the rest of the world under her show-biz stage name - Lauren Bacall. The legendary actress came into stardom in the mid-forties, when she turned from a pretty photo-model into one of the leading beauties of Hollywood. While co-starring with the best actors of the fabled "dream factory", Lauren met Humphrey Bogart - grand icon of American gangster cinema. The couple married soon afterwards.
Humphrey was charmed by his new wife's Israeli cousin. Despite their great age difference, the two became close friends. It was no other than Bogart, who had extensive connections in the world of cinema, art, and politics, who became Peres' guide into High Society. And while spending sleepless nights with his bohemian relatives, Shimon did not forget his duty to the Nation that sent him. Upon his return to Israel in 1952 he was appointed the General Director of the Ministry of Defense.
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