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'I had to do my part.' Peres
Photo: Nati Hernik, GPO
Peres talks of love for Sonya in August interview
When her husband was appointed president, Sonya Peres decided to stay in their Tel Aviv home, away from media spotlight. In rare interview four years ago, she recounted her days in British army. President described Sonya as 'love of my life' in recent interview

Sonia Peres always stayed out of the limelight. When her husband, Shimon Peres was appointed president, she preferred to stay in their Tel Aviv home. She didn't even attend the swearing-in ceremony.

 

The president's wife died on Thursday at the age of 87.

 

In an interview published in Yedioth Ahronoth last summer, Peres spoke about his life away from Sonia.

"I miss her company. She was the love of my life and has remained the love of my life," he said.

 

Speaking of his their life apart from each other, the president said, "Family relations don't begin with chicken soup. We have children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. When you're 16 you're different from an 87-year-old person. Why should we hide it? We lived together for 70 years. I miss this big gathering of the entire family.

 

"I have a lot of respect for her and for her desires. But just like she can set her agenda, I can set my own agenda. It reached a situation in which it no longer felt right," the president added.

 

Nurse turned truck driver

Despite her reluctance to be in the spotlight, Sonia gave an extensive interview

to Yedioth Ahronoth four years ago, in which she recalled her service in the British army.

 

Approximately 4,000 Israeli women volunteered to serve in the British Army. The initial recruitment round began on January 18, 1942.


Shimon and Sonia in their honeymoon (Photo: Yedioth Ahronoth archives)

 

"I realized this was the Jewish people’s war and that I had to do my part,” Peres recounted. “I always dreamt of being a nurse in a hospital, and I requested to serve in this function.”

 

About 100 nurses from the Israel served at the hospital in Halmia, near Cairo. One night, a convoy of wounded English soldiers arrived at the hospital. Overwhelmed, the British nurse asked Sonya to help out with the patient load.

 

However, in the morning, when the head nurse arrived, she bluntly told Peres, “Go clean the cupboards and don’t touch the patients, you accursed creature.”

 

Not one to meekly swallow an insult, Peres slapped her superior, and the other Jewish nurses cheered. Furious, the head nurse submitted a complaint against Peres, who demanded that she  be tried for her racist comment.

 

In the end, Peres was forced to leave the hospital and was sent to Camp Mina, near the pyramids, where she learned to drive trucks, ambulances, command cars and even tanks.

 

 

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