The celebrations are meant to mark not only the birthday of Peres, but the fact that he is the oldest leader in the world. Taking place at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, it is expected to be a giant production with more than 3,000 invitees arriving from Israel and around the world.
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Peres’ birthday bash also serves as the opening event for the fifth annual Presidential Conference, which will run for three days and this year will take place at Hebrew University.
So who is expected to stop by to honor the president? World leaders and politicians slated to attend include former US President Bill Clinton, former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Albert of Monaco, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
President Shimon Peres (Photo: AFP)
Hollywood stars including Barbra Streisand, Robert DeNiro and Sharon Stone will also attend. The list also includes Nobel Prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Dan Shechtman, technology moguls, business entrepreneurs, and of course Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ministers and MKs, mayors, the chief-of-staff, and the heads of the Mossad and the Shin Bet.
Others scheduled to attend: Rona Ramon (widow of astronaut Ilan Ramon), Keren Goldwasser (widow of kidnapped soldier Ehud Goldwasser), students, soldiers, families of fallen soldiers and others.
The program includes Barbra Streisand's rendition of “Avinu Malkeinu” in Hebrew, at Peres’ request. Peres told Streisand that every time he hears her sing the song, he tears up. The reason? In his youth, Peres would hide under the prayer shawl of his grandfather, a rabbi, when he sang the hymn in the synagogue on the eve of Yom Kippur. It is likely that Streisand will also sing the national anthem in Hebrew.
Other planned entertainment includes singers Shlomo Artzi and Eyal Golan, the Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta, the Mayumana dance troupe, and a children’s chorus. Peres’ granddaughters, Eden (6) and Maya (8) will go onstage to wish their grandfather “mazal tov.” This will be followed by a stand-up show from one of Israel's most popular comedians.
Blair, Clinton, Netanyahu and Streisand will all speak as well, and others who could not attend will send video greetings: US President Barack Obama, Russian President Valdimir Putin, respresentatives of France and Germany, and a closing by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
U2’s Bono, Michael Douglas and Jason Alexander, as well as notable leaders from the global Jewish community will also be delivering recorded birthday greetings.
The Presidential Conference is expected to cost around NIS 11 million, and organizers emphasize that the birthday celebration, which constitutes the opening event, is not being financed by public funds or the state budget, but rather by private donations from Jewish organizations and private financers. All the entertainers and speakers will appear as volunteers and will receive no payment, but the conference will cover the speakers' travel expenses.
Peres has asked that those invited not bring him gifts. “It is not something celebratory that I grew by a year, but it is a good opportunity to show the world Israel's accomplishments, and for this I am happy.”
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