Hundreds of Israelis, among them Knesset members, diplomats and religious leaders, arrived at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa on Saturday night and Sunday to answer a shiva call extended to the nation by the family of Shimon Peres, who was buried Friday in Jerusalem in a state ceremony attended by dozens of world leaders.
Hundreds more visitors flocked to the grave at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem to pay tribute to the last of the country’s founding fathers. Peres passed away early Wednesday at the age of 93, two weeks after suffering a massive stroke.
On Saturday night, Peres’s family began the Jewish mourning tradition of sitting shiva, and invited all Israelis wishing to pay their respects to visit them at the Peres Center for Peace in the coming days.
Peres’s son Chemi told visiting mourners that since his father’s passing “we are submerged in deep grief, and feel that this grief is not only ours but all of Israel’s.”
“The love and support we have received from the citizens of Israel and from world leaders envelops us and eases the great pain,” he said.
The center was adorned with pictures from Peres’s life. Visitors were invited to walk around and explore the former president’s work. Many approached the family to speak with them.
Attendees included US Ambassador Dan Shapiro and Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor, United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni and former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo.
At the grave, Jacques Saul, a new immigrant from France, said Peres was “one of Israel’s greatest leaders who advanced the country abroad,” according to Yisrael Hayom.
“We will never forget him,” Rachel, who brought her grandchildren to the grave, told the paper. “Peres was one of a kind in his generation, and it’s important for me that the next generation will know who he is.”
World leaders who attended the funeral Friday praised the former leader for pursuing peace with an indefatigable spirit and optimism, even though his vision of a “new Middle East” was never fulfilled.
Peres led Israel through some of its most defining moments: creating what is believed to be a nuclear arsenal in the 1950s; disentangling its troops from Lebanon and rescuing its economy from triple-digit inflation in the 1980s; and guiding a skeptical nation into peace talks with the Palestinians in the 1990s.
In 1994, he shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 with former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for negotiating an interim peace accord with the Palestinians.
Among the mourners at Peres’s funeral on Friday were US President Barack Obama, former US president Bill Clinton, French President Francois Hollande, Britain’s Prince Charles, German President Joachim Gauck and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Despite the stalemate in peace talks, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sat in the front row alongside other world leaders. Representatives from Egypt and Jordan also were present.
The ceremony was Israel’s largest gathering of international dignitaries since Rabin’s funeral, and was one of the most complicated logistical and security operations ever undertaken.