JERUSALEM – Israeli and global leaders, local celebrities and Hollywood superstars celebrated under one roof Tuesday to honor Israeli President Shimon Peres for his upcoming 90th birthday, reflecting world respect for one of the country’s peace pioneers.
Peres is hosting his annual Presidential Conference that brings together an array of artists, thinkers and leaders to discuss issues relevant to Israel and the world.
Instrumental in building Israel’s military in the first days of the state six decades ago, Peres served twice as prime minister and promoted peace between Israel and the Palestinians, sometimes reaching far ahead of his own people.
For his role in the landmark interim peace accord in 1993, he received the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize along with Israel’s then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
His tireless campaigning for a peace agreement has won him supporters and sympathizers around the world. His last five years as Israel’s president has also gained him affection at home, absent during much of his political career.
In an event that kicked off the conference Tuesday and marked Peres’ birthday, songstress Barbra Streisand sang a prayer in Hebrew and belted out one of her greatest hits, “People,” to enthusiastic applause. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was ushered to the stage by a quintet of saxophones.
Leaders and public figures from around the world, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Barack Obama to Bono, sent their good wishes to Peres. His birthday is in August, but organizers felt it would be difficult to bring back such a star-studded, high-powered crowd so soon. The conference, held every June, is doubling as a birthday bash.