It hasn’t just been world leaders and dignitaries who have gathered from around the globe to honor the life and legacy of Shimon Peres, Israel’s former president and prime minister. Yesterday, while lying in state at the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), more than 40,000 people filed past his coffin to pay their last respects.
Peres’s death at the age of 93 Wednesday sent shockwaves throughout Israel, where he was beloved as a politician who became the country’s most vocal peace activist, the last link to the generation that founded the country and built it into a military power and technology hub.
On Thursday, his body lay in state outside the Israeli parliament as tens of thousands of Israelis, foreigners and dignitaries from around the world lined up to pay their respects to the ninth president.
“When he became president, he connected to all the people of Israel. He loved every single one. He knew how to smile and make people feel good. Every citizen was important to him,” Nahum [one of the many in attendance] said.
Pastor Laurindo Shalom-Haverimbril, the president of a Christian Israel-Brazil friendship group, recalled meeting the late president in his home town of Brasilia in 2010. “President Shimon Peres longed for peace. He conquered our hearts,” he said, dressed in yellow and green and waving a Brazilian flag. “Brazil loves Israel,” he added in broken Hebrew.
Elementary school classes, army platoons, former colleagues and people who have never met Peres made their way to the Knesset to part from Israel’s elder statesman. Many snapped selfies in front of his coffin, some read psalms.