Shimon Peres, one of Israel’s great statesmen and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died early this morning at the age of 93, two weeks after suffering a major stroke that left him on a respirator.

Within hours of his death, tributes to Peres, who twice served as prime minister of Israel and as the country’s ninth president (2007 to 2014), were flooding in from world leaders.

In a statement following his death, US President Barack Obama described Peres as “the essence of Israel itself.”

“As Americans, we are in his debt because, having worked with every US president since John F. Kennedy, no one did more over so many years as Shimon Peres to build the alliance between our two countries – an unbreakable alliance that today is closer and stronger than it has ever been.”

Former president Bill Clinton and his wife, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, said they had “lost a true and treasured friend.”

The Clintons called Peres “a genius with a big heart who used his gifts to imagine a future of reconciliation, not conflict,” and said Israel had lost a leader “who championed its security, prosperity and limitless possibilities from its birth to his last day on Earth.”

 Shimon Peres meets with former US president Bill Clinton and US democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a conference in Ukraine in 2013. Photo by Flash90

Shimon Peres meets with former US president Bill Clinton and US democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a conference in Ukraine in 2013. Photo by Flash90

Former president George H. W. Bush also praised Peres for “his unyielding determination and principle,” and said that Peres “time and again helped guide his beloved country through the crucible of mortal challenge.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “Shimon Peres was, above all, a man of peace and a man dedicated to the wellbeing of the Jewish people.”

Peres, who was beloved by celebrities and leaders all over the world but often polarized opinions in Israel, is regarded as the last of Israel’s founding fathers.

Born Shimon Perski in 1923 in Poland, Peres is credited with being a key force in developing Israel’s army. He was a member of the Haganah, a paramilitary organization that became the core of the Israel Defense Forces.

Peres served in many senior government positions throughout his seven-decade career, including prime minister, defense minister, foreign minister and president.

In 1994, Peres shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat for negotiating the Oslo peace accords.

Former Israeli president Shimon Peres in June this year. Photo by Ben Kelmer/FLASH90
Former Israeli president Shimon Peres in June this year. Photo by Ben Kelmer/FLASH90

In 1996, he founded the Peres Center for Peace, a nonprofit and non-governmental organization that hosts a wide range of activities promoting reconciliation, tolerance and innovation. The center promotes peace-building activities in the fields of agriculture and water; business and economics; civil leadership; community programs in Jaffa; culture, media and arts, medicine and healthcare; social media and information technology; and sports.

Hollywood stars Richard Gere and Sharon Stone have endorsed initiatives from the center, as has former US President Jimmy Carter.

While the peace deal for which he won the Nobel Prize floundered, Peres remained a popular public figure as he became the ninth president of Israel.

When his term ended at age 91, Peres could have retired from public life. Instead, he grabbed new media by the reins and set out on a mission to champion Israel’s role in the technology arena.

In the last few years, Peres became known around the world as an advocate for technological progress. He supported and encouraged the growth of Israel’s startup scene.

“The Israeli mind is uninhibited, creative and constantly looking for innovations and improvements. Israelis are filled with imagination and ambition. Not for nothing Israel is called the ‘Start-up Nation;’ in my opinion Israel has already become an ‘Exit Nation.’ I am proud to see the wonderful and groundbreaking work done here,” Peres said.

Peres created the Israeli Presidential Conference – “Facing Tomorrow” – to bring together the world’s top leaders and thinkers in fields including policy, energy, science, economics, culture, art, religion and thought to create a better tomorrow and find solutions to the most pressing global challenges.

Model Naomi Campbell met former Israeli president Shimon Peres for the International Woman's Day, at Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, earlier this year. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90
Model Naomi Campbell met former Israeli president Shimon Peres for the International Woman’s Day, at Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, earlier this year. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

Based on Peres’ vision, in 2011 the Israel Brain Technologies (IBT) non-profit organization was established to accelerate the commercialization of Israel’s brain-related innovation and position Israel as a leading international brain-technology and research hub.

Peres rejoiced in showing the smartphone generation that he was a force to be reckoned with, starring in YouTube spoofs and running active Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat accounts.

“I turned 93 this week, and it seemed like just the right age to join Snapchat. Young people inspire me, and the most important thing for me is to hear what they have to say. Today, all the young people are on Snapchat, and I am happy to be on there with them,” Peres said in a Facebook post in August.

Earlier this year, Peres suffered a minor heart attack and had a pacemaker implanted in September.

On Tuesday September 13, the day he suffered a major stroke, he had been working as per usual, filming a video urging Israelis to buy blue-and-white products. “Not only because it is more patriotic, but because it is simply better,” he said on Facebook. “Can you imagine a meal without an Israeli salad? Can you set your table without Israeli fruit on it?”

Peres is survived by his three children, Tzvia, Yonatan, and Hemi; grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In 2011, his wife of 67 years, Sonia Peres, died at the age of 87.