Shimon Peres’ daughter, Tzvia Walden, accepting a cake from the Vishnyeva Jewish community as part of the celebrations; photo courtesy Batya Dori.

Shimon Peres’ daughter, Tzvia Walden, accepting a cake from the Vishnyeva Jewish community as part of the celebrations; photo courtesy Batya Dori.

Vishnyeva, Belarus, May 29, 2013 – A series of ceremonial events took place today, May 29, in Vishneyeva, Belarus, the hometown of Israeli President Shimon Peres, as a kick-off in celebrating his 90th birthday on August 2. The ceremonies were held in the presence of his eldest daughter Tzvia Walden (named after President Peres’ Grandfather Tzvi Meltzer, who was killed in Vishnyeva by the Nazis), and were part of the Limmud FSU Festival, which will be held in Belarus from May 31st-June 2nd. Expected to attend the Festival is 500 participants, most of them Belarusian Jews aged 20-40 years old, but also includes participants from other countries, including Israel.

As part of the events in Vishnyeva, which were in collaboration with the Government of Belarus, a special permanent photo exhibition was opened on the life of President Peres. Also today, a plaque was revealed on the home that now sits on the lot where President Peres grew up. It reads: “In this place, Shimon Peres, son of Yitzhak and Sarah Perski, the Nobel Laureate and 9th President of the State of Israel, was born on August 2, 1923.” Right next to the house still stands the original water well which President Peres often speaks about how delicious the water was and how the taste still sticks with him today.

Earlier in the day, the town held an emotional memorial service near the Valley of Death monument to commemorate the 2,000 Jews of Vishnyeva that were murdered at the hands of the Nazis. At the completion of these events, a special closing ceremony was held honoring his family.

The original idea was first raised to the Government of Belarus by Chaim Chesler, Co-Founder of Limmud FSU, and Yoram Dori, a close adviser to Peres for many years, during a meeting with officials in Belarus and the local authorities of Vishnyeva one year ago. Additional partners for the projects are the Jewish community of Belarus, the Israeli Embassy in Belarus, the Minsk District Government and the Vishnyeva Municipality.

“Shimon Peres, a Nobel Laureate, is probably the most well-known and prominent individual to ever be born in Vishnyeva, and it brings the town a lot of honor,” said Chesler. “We hope that this can dramatically elevate tourism and development in the region, especially as we are about to celebrate his 90th birthday later this year.”