Biography of Shimon Peres (Early life)
June 20, 2007 2:43pm CST
Shimon Peres was born in Wisniewo, Poland (now Vishniova, Belarus), to Yitzchak (1896-1962) and Sarah (b. 1905 nee Meltzer) Perski. Peres was raised speaking Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian. His father was a lumber merchant, and his mother taught Russian language and literature. He has a younger brother, Gershon. Interviewed by Mishpacha, an Israeli magazine, Peres said his grandfather, Rabbi Tzvi Meltzer, studied at the Volozhin yeshiva and was a grandson of Rabbi Chaim Volozhin. This grandfather had a great impact on his life. "I grew up in my grandfather's home," Peres said. "He looked after my education. He taught me Talmud. It wasn't as easy as it sounds. I didn't come from an observant home. My parents were not Orthodox. But I was very religious. Once I found my parents listening to the radio on the Sabbath so I smashed it. But to my father's credit, let it be said, I received a blessing from the Chofetz Chaim in Radin when I was a child. My father took me to see him." In 1934, Peres moved with his family to Palestine. He attended the Geula School in Tel Aviv and the Ben Shemen agricultural school. He lived on Kibbutz Geva for several years, and was one of the founders of Kibbutz Alumot. In 1943 he was elected Secretary of Ha-Noar Ha-oved Ve-ha-lomed, a Labor Zionist youth movement. In 1944, he returned to Kibbutz Alumot, where he worked as a dairy farmer, shepherd and kibbutz secretary. In 1947, he joined the Haganah (predecessor of the Israeli Defense Forces). David Ben-Gurion made him responsible for personnel and arms purchases. In 1952, he was appointed Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Defense, and in 1953, at the age of 29, he became the youngest ever Director General of the Ministry of Defense. He was involved in arms purchase and establishing strategic alliances that were of great importance for the young state of Israel. Thanks to Peres' mediation, Israel acquired the advanced Dassault Mirage III French jet fighter, established the Dimona nuclear reactor and entered into a tri-national agreement with France and the United Kingdom during the 1956 Suez Crisis.