Obama Remembers Shimon Peres at White House Hanukkah Party

Late-president's son, Chemi, lights family's menorah, likens Obama's eight years in the White House to the Hanukkah oil miracle.

Allison Kaplan Sommer
Allison Kaplan Sommer
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Michelle and Barack Obama at a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony this week.
Michelle and Barack Obama at a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony this week.
Allison Kaplan Sommer
Allison Kaplan Sommer

Chemi Peres, son of late President Shimon Peres, lit the family menorah in memory of his father at the White House Hanukkah Party on Wednesday night.

He compared “the miracle of the menorah oil that lasted for eight days” to President Barack Obama's tenure in the White House, describing it as "a miracle that lasted eight years.”

Peres and members of his family – his son Guy and his niece Mika Almog – were guests of the Obamas at the Hanukkah celebration in the White House. Obama had invited him to bring the family heirloom to stand alongside the White House menorah, which President Barack Obama lit for the eighth and last time  

"Tonight, Chemi and Mika will light this amazing heirloom in the White House," Obama said before the blessings. "And as they do, we hope all of you draw strength from the divine spark in Shimon Peres whose miraculous life taught us that faith and moral vision can triumph over all adversity."

Peres, a successful high tech entrepreneur and investor, told Haaretz that he received a “warm welcome” from the president and his wife Michelle. “The president said to me again and again how much he appreciated and respected my father and how much he and the entire world misses him,” he said.

That respect was apparent from the U.S. president's decision to fly to Israel at short notice for Peres’ funeral, his eulogy at the ceremony and his decision to fly flags in the U.S. at half-mast in Peres' honor, an honor accorded to only six foreign leaders previously.

The appreciation, Peres stressed, was mutual. “Obama was a great supporter of Israel and my father had the highest respect for him as a great president. They had a special relationship.”

Regarding the party, Peres said: “We were saying goodbye to Obama as president, and obviously most of the people who attended the party would have preferred not to have to say goodbye. It was also a memorial for my father and, of course, it was a celebration of the Jewish holiday, a victory of light over darkness – it was a day of light and a day of hope.”

Obama, he remarked, seemed “very relaxed, very self-assured” and looking forward to life after the presidency. “He told everyone ‘see you on the other side of January 20th.’"

Peres said he expected the retired president to contribute to peace and humankind. "I don't know what kind of platform he is going to use, but he has a major role to play. He is young, experienced and a passionate human being.”

Asked how he thought Shimon Peres would have reacted to the election of Donald Trump, Chemi Peres said, “At this point, my father would have been patiently waiting. He judged people on the merits of what they did and not what they said. I’m sure that if he had the chance he would want to sit down with (Trump) and give him his views and tell him what he thinks needs to be done.”

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