Sonia Peres, wife to current Israeli President Shimon Peres for no fewer than 67 years, passed away late last week and was laid to rest on Friday in Ben Shemen, the central Israel farming community where the couple first met seven decades ago.
Sonia Peres was 87-years-old, and though she had some issues with her heart a few years ago, was believed to be in relatively good health when she passed away in her sleep.
Speaking at her funeral, Peres said of Sonia, “My lover for her will remain in my heart until I die.”
The funeral was attended by a larger than expected number of dignitaries and average Israelis. Though Sonia kept herself out of the limelight, she was well loved by her countrymen.
In fact, Sonia was most famous for not being famous. Though her husband has resided at the top of the Israeli power structure for the better part of the past 50 years, Sonia was almost never by his side in that capacity. She much preferred to be on the ground among the people, helping and never seeking recognition for doing so.
In that way, Sonia was the polar opposite of her husband. When asked years ago by an Israeli newspaper why she stayed out of the public eye despite Shimon Peres’ tremendous political success, Sonia responded, “I married a dairy farmer.”
When Peres became Israel’s ninth president in 2007, Sonia opted to continue living in their Tel Aviv home, while he moved to the presidential residence in Jerusalem. They spent the last three years living apart, and she had even started using a different last name, going by Sonia Gal.
Sonia immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine at the age of four. Her family took up residence in Ben Shemen, where Peres, himself a fresh immigrant from Poland, later met her while on guard duty.
Shortly after they began dating, Sonia enlisted in the British army to help fight the Nazis, and spent the next five years moving around the Middle East with her unit. The two were married upon her return to the land at the end of the war.