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Today's birthday, August 2

AAP logoAAP 1/08/2016

Today's Birthday, August 2: Former Israeli president, Shimon Peres (1923-)

Born in 1923 as Shimon Peres and his family escaped the Holocaust before the Nazis ravaged his Polish home town of Wiszniew (now Vishneva, Belarus) in 1941.

Devastatingly, all Peres' relatives were burned alive inside the town's small synagogue in 1941.

Luckily, the man who became Israel's prime minister, president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, survived.

Shimon, his mother and his little brother fled Poland and joined his father in what was then called Palestine in 1934 before moving to Tel Aviv on Israel's azure eastern coast.

As a boy, Shimon's grandfather educated him on Judaism and he rebelled against his parents unorthodox approach to the religion.

"I heard my parents listening to the radio on the Sabbath (Saturday) and I smashed it," he later said.

Peres herded sheep, worked as a dairy farmer and as a kibbutz secretary on the arid lands of Israel during his youth.

He later finished his studies at the prestigious Harvard University in the US.

When Peres returned to Israel he joined a youth movement which led him to a fateful meeting with Israel's first president David Ben-Gurion. It was this encounter which helped spawn Peres' political career.

He went on to serve two terms as Israel's prime minister (1986-1988 and again in 1995-1996) and seven years as the nation's president from 2007 until his retirement in 2014.

Peres along with then prime minister Yitzhak Ravin and the late Palestinian PM Yasser Arafat, won the Nobel Peace Prize for their attempts to try and reconcile the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Peres was in charge of the negotiations while working as Israel's Minister for Foreign Affairs and conducted secret talks which led to the Oslo Accords in 1993.

Signed in Washington, the Oslo Accords were meant to see Israel's gradual withdrawal from the occupied territories and the establishment of Palestinian self-determination.

Among his many achievements, Peres is fluent in at least six languages - English, Hebrew, Yiddish, French, Russian and Polish - and has written 11 books.

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