5 Things About Shimon and Sonia Peres’s Undying, Tumultuous Love Story

“I married a dairy farmer,” Sonia Peres once said when asked about her husband, Israel’s honored statesman Shimon Peres.

The couple, together for 67 years, shared a tumultuous love story, strained by Peres’ lifelong commitment to public service — and his wife’s equally powerful distaste for the spotlight.

But if you go back to the very beginning, it was just a girl, a boy, and a teenage crush.

The first time Shimon spotted Sonia, it was at their Israel youth village of Ben Shemen. She was gardening, her hair in a braid. He was immediately smitten.

“She had a wonderful face,” he recalled. “I knew that it was love at first sight.”

He was initially too nervous to talk to her, but eventually broke the ice by asking if she was afraid of snakes (she wasn’t).

Here’s a look back at the timeline of their long and loving, but eventually doomed, relationship.

The two married in 1945, and lived on a kibbutz. He owned two pairs of pants and one pair of shoes.

Once Shimon got into politics, it was quickly established that Sonia hated her life as a public figure—making only rare appearances by Shimon’s side.

She was not the traditional politician’s wife. Instead of heading an organization for children with special needs, she volunteered there weekly, scrubbing floors and handing out food.

She opposed him becoming president, and did not attend his inauguration in 2007. He called her the love of his life in his speech anyway.

When Sonia asked Shimon to retire from politics, he said he could not. “‘Look,’ I said to her, ‘I have served the country, the people, all my life. This is what gives my life content. I don’t even know what time off is, for me time off is like dying. I will die if I don’t do this.’”

The two went their separate ways, but never divorced.

At Sonia’s funeral in 2011, Shimon harkened back to their days as teens working at the youth village. “I loved her at first sight,” he said. “That love will stay with me until I too close my eyes forever.”

Thea Glassman is a Multimedia Fellow at the Forward. Reach her at glassman@forward.com or on Twitter at @theakglassman.


Thea Glassman

Thea Glassman

Thea Glassman is an Associate Editor for the Forward. Reach her at glassman@forward.com or follow her on twitter @theakglassman.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

5 Things About Shimon and Sonia Peres’s Undying, Tumultuous Love Story

Thank you!

This article has been sent!