President Shimon Peres said
Wednesday that the festivities marking Israel's 60th birthday and including top personalities from around the world will open with a tribute to Israel's
staunchest ally, the United States.
"After 60 years we want to stand up and say 'thank you America,'" Peres said in an interview with the Associated Press.
The May 13-15 conference will be attended by President George W. Bush and Barbra Streisand singing the Jewish prayer Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father Our King), which Peres described as "unbelievably beautiful."
Peres said the conference, focusing on Jewish and Israeli contributions to humanity, will include subjects "as varied as one can think of ... from arts and science and philosophy to medicine and ecology."
Besides Bush and Streisand other notables will include Tony Blair, Mikhail Gorbachev and Rupert Murdoch. "We are going to have probably 10 presidents from different countries, six former presidents, ministers, prime ministers, scientists, philosophers, and artists," Peres said.
The conference is expected to be one of the highlights of weeks of celebrations marking Israel's 60th birthday, including concerts, Holocaust remembrance events, a workshop promoting Israeli-Arab coexistence and a 1,200-kilometer trans-country bicycle trail.
Peres said that most of the conference's 2,000 participants will be Jewish, but that it's open to people of all faiths.
The list of confirmed guests also includes Henry Kissinger, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, former Czech President Vaclev Havel, Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, Google founder Sergey Brinn, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerman, Ratan Tata, chairman of India's Tata group, US Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, and Abdurrahman Wahid, former president of Indonesia.