Prayers pour in for former Israeli leader Shimon Peres

Hopes and prayers continued to pour in from world leaders as former Israeli President Shimon Peres struggled to recover from a massive stroke this week that left him hospitalized and on a respirator. Peres’ status “remains unchanged,” a statement issued Sept. 15 by his spokesperson said.

“Shimon, we love you and the entire nation wishes for your recovery,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a post on Facebook. Netanyahu personally visited Peres in the hospital and conveyed the nation’s prayers for his recovery.

The Times of Israel expressed the thoughts of many when it described him this week as “the elder statesman of Israeli politics, one of the country’s most admired symbols and the last surviving link to its founding fathers.”

 

Shimon Peres

In a testament to Peres’ global appeal as a symbol of peace, he elicited get-well wishes from individuals as varied as former NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire and Norway’s foreign affairs minister.

 

Former President Bill Clinton, who worked with Peres on the Oslo accords, reportedly called Peres’ camp multiple times on Sept. 13, the evening of Peres’ stroke. Tony Blair, another ally in the peace process — he previously served as envoy for the Quartet for Middle East Peace, a multilateral effort to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — also checked in.

Peres, who retired as president of Israel in 2014 after more than half a century in public life, including a stint as prime minister, won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. He is known for his commitment to Middle East peace, and is also credited with establishing Israel as a nuclear power and helping the country through an economic slump in the 1980s.

He still works actively with the Peres Center for Peace, a nonprofit he founded in Jaffa.

Peres, 93, was admitted to Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer near Tel Aviv on the evening of Sept. 13 after telling his doctor he felt weak. A pacemaker had been implanted a week prior.

In July, Peres was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm. In January, he had a heart attack and then cardiac angioplasty to open a blocked artery. He was hospitalized twice more this year with chest pains.

Dr. Rafi Walden, Peres’ personal physician as well as his son-in-law, said in a briefing on Sept. 14 that Peres was responsive that morning when he was briefly taken off medications keeping him in a medically induced coma. His family was “happy to see that when there was a pause in anesthetic drugs, we realized he was responsive and probably attentive to what we tell him,” Walden said.

Walden said that Peres is being kept sedated so that he does not overexert himself.

As of press time, the former president was considered in stable but serious condition, with some improvement. It was not yet known how much damage his brain sustained and what his recovery would look like, although Walden said on Sept. 14 that the “massive intracranial hemorrhage” he suffered has likely caused permanent brain damage. 

“We call on all of Israel to join us in hoping and praying for his recovery,” Walden said.

Peres has three children, a daughter, Tzvia, and two sons, Yoni and Chemi.

Speaking to reporters in front of the medical center the night of his father’s stroke, Chemi Peres acknowledged that the situation was grave. “In the coming hours, we will have to make decisions,” he said.

JTA

JTA news agency