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Peres. 'The state was his top priority'
Photo: AP
Israeli history got into my car every morning, says Peres’s driver
Alon Navi, who served as Shimon Peres’s personal driver for the past 17 years, shares his personal memories of the late president and recounts the day he rushed him to hospital.
Shimon Peres’s personal driver for the past 17 years, Alon Navi, felt a certain emptiness Wednesday morning after the former president and prime minister’s death at the age of 93.

 

 

“Not many people like going to work, but I would smile and get excited every morning when I saw part of the State of Israel’s history get into my car. Today is a difficult morning,” he said.

 

Shimon Peres. 'He would work from the morning to the late hours of the night' (Photo: AP)
Shimon Peres. 'He would work from the morning to the late hours of the night' (Photo: AP)

 

What would you talk about during the long rides?

 

“Politics, family, friends, doing things for the state. That was his top priority. Every evening, he would engage in self-examination and ask himself if there was somewhere he could contribute more. Time was invaluable to him, every minute was important.”

 

People sometimes find it hard to believe the stories about the number of hours Peres used to work. Describe his schedule to us.

 

“It’s simple. I would tell my wife on Saturday evening, ‘See you next Friday.’ I wasn’t home with my kids. The man would work from the morning hours to the late hours of the night. He would jokingly tell me at midnight, ‘Tomorrow come in later. Instead of at 7 am, at 7:15.”

 

Can you recount the day you rushed him to the hospital?

 

“In the afternoon, he asked to eat grilled meat skewers. Then he felt a strong headache. He asked me to come urgently and take him to the hospital. It was just the two of us in the car. I asked how he was feeling, and he said he had a terrible headache. The doctor said that almost everything was fine, but that he should stay there for the night just to be on the safe side.

 

“He asked me to drive to his house and bring his personal items. I drove to his house and returned. He asked me for a glass of water and I brought him one. He asked, ‘Where are you? Give me the glass.’ I said, ‘I’m right next to you, Shimon,’ and then I saw that he was unfocused. I called the doctor, who checked him and realized that he was going through a stroke. He immediately took him to a brain CT.

 

“After 17 and a half years, I feel so sad. I keep turning my head, so used to seeing him and talking to him, and suddenly he’s gone. A man who was a partner, who treated me as a member of his family, whom I would consult on anything. He is the one who named my eldest son Ofek (horizon) 16 years ago, so that the State of Israel would have a political horizon. He was godfather to my youngest son Maor, who I hope will adopt some of this great man’s unique qualities. It’s very difficult for me.”

 

Peres’s media advisor, Ayelet Frish, one of his closest associates, added: “It was a sleepless night, a farewell night, a very difficult night. We had two extremely difficult weeks, expecting him to wake up, and he won’t wake up. Expecting an improvement, but there’s no improvement.”

 

Did you personally say goodbye?

 

“The entire staff bid farewell to him. We hugged him and thanked him for the right to serve by his side. We told him that he must know how much the people of Israel cared about him and loved him, and how much appreciation he had from all parts of the nation.”

 

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