PARIS - President Shimon Peres is in London this week, meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron and addressing a high level forum on 60 years of British-Israeli diplomatic relations.
But the highlight of his trip was undoubtedly the mega 80th birthday party Wednesday night for his friend and former Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev. There, Peres rubbed shoulders with Sharon Stone, hummed along to the sounds of Bryan Ferry and tapped his feet as the Bolshoi Ballet performed.
“Mazal Tov!” Peres said, addressesing the man he says he “feels privileged to simply call …Michael.”
“There aren't many people in my lifetime, about whom I can say full-heartedly: here is a man who has changed history forever,” the president said.
Stone and Kevin Spacey hosted the gala charity event concert, which was touted as having the pulling power only a man credited with ending the Cold War could muster. Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor was there and former British Prime Minister John Major dropped in. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger was on hand to offer his congratulations.
“The name Michael has many connotations in the Bible and the New Testament,” Peres said in his speech. “There Michael is an Angel. A carrier of great news. A leader..."
“I will not argue with the Bible tonight. Because our Michael spearheaded one of the greatest revolutions that we can speak of today. With an exceptional amount of courage, yet also with great sensitivity towards his people, and the political climate. He opened the flood-gates to be rid of Communism and bring in the waters of democracy. He fought to restore what his homeland had lost to Communism, and succeeded.”
The gala took place at London's Royal Albert Hall, and besides Ferry and the Bolshoi, also featured performances from legendary acts such as Dame Shirley Bassey, the London Sympony Orchestra, and a long list of Russian home grown stars, such as internationally acclaimed Russian baritone Dmitry Hvorostovsky, rock stars Andrey Makarevich and Mashina Vremeni and the Turetsky Choir, a choir founded by conductor Michael Turetsky of the Moscow Central Synagogue.
The artists, according to the program, celebrated "the seven stages of Mr Gorbachev's life" including his childhood, rise to high office, the reforms of Perestroika and his international peace efforts, which ultimately led to the collapse of communism and his Nobel Peace Prize award.
The former Soviet leader personally chose Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the internet, CNN founder Ted Turner and Evans Wadongo as the winners of the inaugural Gorbachev Awards.
Peres presented Kenyan engineer Wadongo, who invented a hand built solar lantern, with the award.
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