Israel’s President Shimon Peres Celebrates 89th Birthday in Miami’s Partnership City
When you are president of Israel and are about to reach the milestone of 89 years old, there are many ways you can celebrate your birthday. Shimon Peres chose to spend his special day – Thursday, August 16, 2012 – in Yerucham, a city in Israel’s Negev Desert region that is partner to Miami’s Jewish community.
The Greater Miami Jewish Federation entered into an official partnership with Yerucham in 2007, according to Brian L. Bilzin, Federation’s Chair of the Board. “This partnership has provided the opportunity for our two communities to collaborate on a wide variety of projects that benefit the community’s youth and young adults and foster a strong Miami-Israel connection,” Bilzin said.
Peres has held a steadfast interest in the Negev – first as secretary to Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, who strongly believed that the future of Israel lies in the development of this southernmost region. Following in Ben-Gurion’s footsteps, Peres has strongly supported efforts to create new Negev communities and build up existing ones; to provide social-service programs that will meet the needs of residents and attract new people to live there; and to encourage businesses, scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs to explore the possibilities that exist through use of the Negev’s natural resources.
The community of Yerucham has been an enormous success story in Negev-related development. Established in 1952 as a home to immigrants, the desert town was losing a large number of its citizens to Israeli cities with more amenities. “Under the guidance of Mayors Amram Mitzna and Michael Biton and through the Miami-Yerucham partnership, the city has undergone a tremendous revitalization, offering new facilities and outstanding new programs, and enjoying stellar achievements by many of its youngest residents,” said Lisa Kudish, Chair of the Miami-Yerucham Partnership Committee. Peres – whose youthful vigor belies his 89 years – has taken pride in the accomplishments of these young Israelis, she said, and was pleased to take the occasion of his birthday to meet with them.
From the moment he stepped off his helicopter at 10 a.m., Peres enjoyed a whirlwind of activity, touring many Federation-funded sites throughout Yerucham and mingling with residents. His day included:
• A visit to Machsan 52, Yerucham’s youth activities center, which receives funding from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. Peres met with winners of the National and International Bible Contests – both of whom are residents of Yerucham – and even gave them a “pop quiz” on their biblical knowledge. He also met with one group of young inventors who received high honors in Israel’s Robotics competition, and another group who were the only non-American team to win an award in the 2012 FLL Global Innovation competition. All of these innovators participate in programs through Machsan 52.
• A visit to the “Young Communities” of Yerucham, where a variety of programs for young adults are enjoying great success.
• Lunch with the “Cooks of Yerucham,” a group of local chefs that has published its own cookbook.
• A birthday party, with entertainment provided by Yerucham’s dance troupes and orchestra, and more.
Peres’ daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and two great-grandchildren joined him in Yerucham for the celebration. During the visit at the youth activities center, Mayor Michael Biton’s daughter sang a welcoming song written by Biton’s wife.
“While this is not President Peres’ first visit to Yerucham, we are so pleased that the community was able to host him there on his birthday,” said Jacob Solomon, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. “I understand it was a truly wonderful day for everyone involved.”
More than 700 members of Miami’s Jewish community also had the opportunity to meet with Peres recently in Jerusalem as part of Miami Mega Mission Israel 2012. At that program, Peres talked about his ongoing commitment to the Negev.
Photo: Yerucham Mayor Michael Biton and a young resident hold a birthday cake for 89-year-old President Shimon Peres.
To learn more about the Miami-Yerucham partnership, click here or contact Dahlia Bendavid, Israel and Overseas Department Director, at IsraelOverseas@JewishMiami.org or 786.866.8445. The “Cooks of Yerucham” cookbook can also be purchased through Bendavid.