Shimon Peres, who died on September 28 at age 93, served in public life for over 60 years, but his family kept a much lower profile. His wife, the late Sonya Peres, rarely appeared in public. The two had three children, sons Yoni and Nehemia, also known as Chemi; and daughter Tsvia Valdan.
Peres’ death was confirmed by the Jerusalem Post. He died after suffering a major stroke on September 13 and had been hospitalized since.
Here is a look at Peres’ family.
1. Sonya Peres Shunned Public Life & Refused to Go to Jerusalem With Peres When He Was Elected President in 2007
Sonya Peres was born Sonya Gelman in the Ukraine and her family left for Israel when she was just a child. Peres and Sonya married in 1945 after meeting in high school. During World War II, she worked as a British Army nurse. Peres died in Tel Aviv in January 2011, The Associated Press reported. She was 88 years old and died peacefully in her sleep.
Although Peres spent most of his life in the public, Sonya did not. Haaretz reported at the time of her death that one of her last public appearances was in April 1990, during a government swearing in ceremony.
When Peres was elected president of Israel in 2007, Sonya refused to go to Jerusalem and lived in their Tel Aviv apartment. In a 2010 interview with Yediot Ahronot, Peres said that he missed having Sonya around. “She was the love of my life and has remained the love of my life,” he said.
“In her quiet and modest life, Sonya represented good-heartedness and turned into a symbol and example of modesty and love of man,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement at the time of Sonya’s death.
“She loved the country. She loved the people. She did most of her work in secret,” Peres said at Sonya’s funeral. “She wanted to stay ‘on the ground.’”
2. Peres Was Born in Poland & Moved to Tel Aviv in 1934
Peres’ story was very similar to his wife’s. He was born on August 21, 1923 in Vishnyeva, which was in Poland at the time and is now part of Belarus. According to his Academy of Achievement biography, his father moved to Tel Aviv in 1932 in British-controlled Palestine. Two years later, Shimon, his brother Gershon and the rest of his family moved to Tel Aviv.
The Jersualem Post reports that his first cousin was the later American actress Lauren Bacall, who was born Betty Joan Perske.
Although Peres and his immediate family left Europe before the Holocaust, the members of his family left behind were killed by the Nazis. During a speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2014, Peres recalled how the family he left behind in Vishnyeva were killed.
In Vishneva the Nazis used a different technique. They didn’t shoot the Jews. They burnt them alive. The Nazis, Germans and locals, gathered up all the Jews left in Vishneva, (half had already emigrated to Israel) and forced them to march to the synagogue which was made of wood. My grandfather, wrapped in a Jewish prayer shawl, stood at the head of the march, Rabbi Zvi Meltzer may peace be upon his soul. The same prayer shawl that I huddled under every Yom Kippur to listen to him recite the Kol Nidre prayer in his beautiful voice. They locked the doors of the synagogue and set it on fire with all the Jews still inside. No-one survived.
3. Peres’ Youngest Son, Yoni, Is a Veterinarian Who Established a Veterinary Hospital in Tel Aviv
Yoni Peres is Peres’ youngest son, notes Limmud FSU. He is a veterinarian, who founded the Village Veterinary Center in Tel Aviv. He also does fundraising for The Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind.
“You were always under the microscope,” Yoni Peres said of being Peres’ son in a JTA interview in 2002. “When you did something well, people thought you used your family connections. When you did something bad, it was a public disgrace.”
During the late 1990s, Yoni Peres was the director of the teaching hospital at Hebrew University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. In a 1999 interview with the San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage, Yoni Peres noted that the creation of the veterinary school was controversial in 1985, but it was an effort to encourage more Israelis to study veterinary medicine in Israel instead of traveling abroad.
4. Chemi Peres Is the Co-Founder of Israel’s Largest Venture Capital Firm
Peres’ older son, Chemi Peres, is the co-founder and managing general partner of Pitango Venture Capital, the largest venture capital fund in Israel. He’s also the Chairman of the Al-Bawader Indestment Fund. He served as a pilot in the Israeli air force for 10 years and graduated from Tel Aviv University. Chemi Peres also runs a blog.
Chemi Peres also founded the Mofet Israel Technology Fund in 1992. In August 2016, he offered TechCrunch his thoughts on Israeli start-ups.
“The digital wave is disrupting industry one after another,” Peres said, adding that he hopes to “see diversification in all areas, all sectors of technology.”
5. Tsvia Walden Is a Psycholinguist & Professor at Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Tsvia Walden, Peres’ daughter, is a psycholinguist and currently a professor at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba. She spoke at the 2015 BrainTech summit, which also featured her father as a speaker.
Walden is on the board of directors of the Peres Center for Peace, which was founded by Peres. She has also written several articles for Haaretz, including a 2011 article on a study about children’s conversations.