Israel mourns as preparations begin for Shimon Peres’ funeral

Published 10:06 am Wednesday, September 28, 2016

JERUSALEM — Israel on Wednesday mourned the death of Shimon Peres, a former president and prime minister whose life story mirrored that of the Jewish state, as the government began preparations for a funeral that is expected to bring together world leaders and dignitaries.

Peres, celebrated around the world as a Nobel Prize-winning visionary who pushed his country toward peace during a remarkable seven-decade career, died early Wednesday from complications from a stroke. He was 93.

News of Peres’ death was met with an outpouring of tributes from around the world.

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“There are few people who we share this world with, who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves. My friend Shimon was one of those people,” said President Barack Obama.

Obama was among a list of leaders tentatively expected at Peres’ funeral in Jerusalem on Friday. After earlier saying that Obama and Hillary Clinton would be attending, spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said there was “no definite answer.” Earlier, the ministry also backtracked on a claim that the pope would be coming.

There was no immediate comment from the White House or Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Despite the confusion, a high-powered group of world leaders, including Bill Clinton and French President Francois Hollande and a host of foreign ministers, was expected for what would be the largest such gathering in Israel since the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a Jewish ultranationalist in 1995.

Officials said Peres’ body would lie in state at the Knesset, or parliament, on Thursday to allow the public to pay final respects.

On Friday morning, the casket will be taken from the Knesset to Mount Herzl, the country’s national cemetery, in Jerusalem, the government said. The ceremony will include eulogies and a procession to the cemetery’s VIP section for burial alongside most of the country’s past leaders. It said large screens would be set up around the cemetery to allow the expected huge crowd to watch.