Israel’s former prime minister, Shimon Peres, who died aged 93 on Wednesday, spent seven decades serving as president, minister for defense, finance, foreign affairs, and transportation. But, perhaps most surprisingly, he was also a prolific social media star with an avid internet fanbase.
Peres was once a controversial figure in Israel, where his achievements included leading the development of Israel’s defense forces and its nuclear weapons, and negotiating arms deals with Germany and France.
However, later in his career, Peres also led a peace movement with Arab advocates, and as defense minister in 1993, he convinced then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to sign the Oslo Accords. Together with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the three men were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.
After his long and storied political career, Peres became a beloved figure toward the end of his life. That may have been helped by his prolific presence on social media, which he used to share messages of peace, diplomacy, and the importance of technology and innovation in Israel’s future.
“I turned 93 this week, and it seemed like just the right age to join Snapchat,” Peres wrote on Facebook weeks before he suffered the stroke that ultimately led to his death. Writing in three languages: English; Hebrew; and Arabic, Peres said: “Young people inspire me, and the most important thing for me is to hear what they have to say.”
But Peres’ appreciation for social media reached much further than Snapchat. The two-time prime minister has had a YouTube channel since 2009, and in 2012, launched his Facebook page with the help of Mark Zuckerberg, who gave Peres his very first “like.”
To celebrate the launch of his Facebook page — more than three years before President Obama joined the platform — Peres showed off his versatility by starring, and rapping, in a dance song, called “Be My Friend For Peace,” and its accompanying music video. It’s one of the most-watched videos on his YouTube channel, seen almost half a million times.Aside from his prolific use of Twitter, Peres also maintained an Instagram account. Some of his most recent uploads showed him wearing a virtual reality headset alongside prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and president Reuven Rivlin. In other photographs, Peres could be seen meeting actor Sean Penn, Bono from U2, and Apple CEO Tim Cook.After news of Peres’ death spread, there was an outpouring on his social media pages as fans returned to mourn the popular statesman, ensuring that his social media presence will continue despite his passing.