Tag Archives: Poland

Jew of the Week: Shimon Peres

In Memory of Israel’s Last Founding Father

A young Shimon Peres with his wife Sonia

A young Shimon Peres with his wife Sonia

Szymon Perski (1923-2016) was born in the shtetl of Vishnyeva (then part of Poland, now in Belarus) to a wealthy Russian-Jewish family. He was the great-great-grandson of the famed Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, and was greatly influenced by his own grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Meltzer. At the young age of 11, Perski’s family moved to Tel Aviv and Hebraized their last name to Peres. (Their entire extended family back in Vishnyeva would later perish in the Holocaust). After finishing his schooling, young Shimon went to live on a kibbutz working as a dairy farmer and shepherd before co-founding his own kibbutz. He was soon elected secretary of a Labor Zionist youth organization. From there, he joined the Mapai party, whose leader David Ben-Gurion took a personal interest in him. At 21, Peres was imprisoned for two weeks by the British for leading an “illegal” expedition into the Negev to scout a new place for Jewish settlement. In 1947, now married, Peres was appointed to the Haganah and put in charge of recruitment and weapons purchases. The following year, he took charge of Israel’s nascent navy. In the 50’s, while part of Israel’s delegation to the US, he studied at NYU and Harvard. At 29, he became the head of Israel’s Ministry of Defence – the youngest person to ever hold the position. He was praised for building strong military alliances with other countries (particularly France, who awarded him their highest distinction, the Legion of Honor), and securing large amounts of modern weapons that propelled Israel into a regional powerhouse. He also helped establish the crucial Dimona nuclear reactor. In 1959, Peres was elected to the Knesset. At one time or another, he served as Minister of Immigrant Absorption, Minister of Transportation, Minister of Defence, Foreign Minister, Minister of Finance, and Information Minister. In 1984, Peres was elected Israel’s prime minister, and in 2007, Israel’s president. Among his other major achievements are the 1976 Entebbe rescue operation (which he pushed through the Cabinet), the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, and his Peres Center for Peace, which has trained over 250 Arab doctors and brought life-saving treatment to thousands of Arab children. Peres was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his work with the Oslo Accords, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2008, presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 by Barack Obama, and with the US Congressional Gold Medal in 2014. He was also the author of 11 books. Sadly, following a debilitating stroke, the last of Israel’s founding fathers passed away in his sleep early Wednesday. Dignitaries from around the world are flying in to pay their respects, including past and present heads of state of Germany, France, Canada, Australia, Mexico, and the US – many of whom Peres had guided and advised. President Obama has ordered flags in America to fly at half mast. Despite his age, Peres worked tirelessly until the very last days of his life. He had once said, “Optimists and pessimists die the same way. They just live differently. I prefer to live as an optimist.”

How Peres Made Israel a Military Powerhouse

Former Anti-Semitic Party Leader Now Moving to Israel

Elon Musk Announces Plans for Colonizing Mars

The Biggest Lies Abbas Told the UN General Assembly

The Link Between Alcohol and Cancer

Israeli Scientist Simulates Black Hole

Portugal’s Jewish Renaissance

Shana Tova v’Metuka! Rosh Hashanah Begins Sunday Night

Words of the Week

It’s better to be controversial for the right reasons than to be popular for the wrong reasons.
– Shimon Peres

Jew of the Week: Israel Kristal

The World’s Oldest Living Man

Israel Kristal, World's Oldest Living Man (Credit: Guinness World Records)

Israel Kristal, World’s Oldest Living Man (Credit: Guinness World Records)

Izrael Icek Krysztal (b. 1903) was born near Zarnow, Poland to an Orthodox Jewish family. At the young age of three he started his studies at a religious school, and by six was already well-versed in Biblical and Talmudic knowledge. He survived the First World War as a teenager, despite the fact that his father had been drafted into the army, and his mother had passed away. After the war, he and his father reunited, and settled in Lodz where they opened up a candy shop. Kristal married and had two children. It wasn’t long before another World War broke out, and Kristal’s family was sooned moved to the Lodz ghetto, where both of his children died. Some time later, he and his wife were sent to Auschwitz, then transferred to several other labour camps. When the camps were liberated, Kristal weighed just 37 kilograms. Tragically, his wife didn’t make it, and neither did anyone else in his extended family. Starting anew once more, Kristal remarried, and made aliyah to Israel in 1950, where he has lived ever since. He continued working in his profession as a confectioner, first at a candy factory, and then from his own home. Last week, Guinness World Records confirmed Kristal as the world’s oldest living man (in addition to his previous recognition of being the oldest living Holocaust survivor). He is now nearing his 113th birthday. Still devoutly observant, Kristal says he hasn’t missed a day of laying tefillin for over 70 years, since the end of the Holocaust. He has nine grandchildren, and many more great-grandchildren. When asked what one should eat for a long life, he said: “There wasn’t always food in the camps. I ate what I was given. I eat to live, and I don’t live to eat. I don’t need too much. Anything that’s too much is no good.”

Pew Research Study Reveals Amazing Stats About Israelis

Iranian Muslim Is Only Kosher Food Vendor in Cologne

Israeli 10th-Grader Stumbles Upon New Geometric Theorem

Why You Should Teach Your Kids Philosophy

How Hamas Exploits its Palestinians

Tired of Daylight Savings Time? Blame Big Business

The First Ghetto: 500 Years of Jewish Life in Venice

Words of the Week

I don’t know the secret for long life. I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why…
– Israel Kristal