Israeli President's Wife, Sonia, Dies at 87

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The wife of Israeli President Shimon Peres, Sonia, died Thursday afternoon at her Tel Aviv apartment. She was 87.

A grandchild who had come to visit her in the morning found her unresponsive, her son-in-law, Dr. Rafi Valdan, told Israel Radio. Magen David Adom paramedics were unable to revive her.

"The family members were very close to her," he said. "We would see her almost every day."

Born in the Ukraine in 1923, she immigrated to Israel with her family as a 4-year-old. Her family settled in at the Ben Shemen Youth Village, where her dad taught carpentry.

In 1942 during the Second World War, she enlisted in the British Army, serving first at an army hospital near Cairo and later as a truck driver in Europe.

After their marriage in 1945, the newlyweds helped found Kibbutz Alumot, where they raised their three children.

In 2007 when her husband became president, she decided not to move with him to the President's Residence in Jerusalem. Throughout her husband's six-decade-long political career, public appearances were rare for her and their children.

She is survived by her husband, three grown children - Tzvia, Yonatan and Nehemiah - eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"Sonia Peres was a very special woman and human being," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday.

"She was the epitome of modesty, simplicity and loving kindness. Throughout the years, she stayed out of the limelight and maintained her privacy, working tirelessly on behalf of those in need. All who knew her adored and admired her. May her memory be blessed," he said.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

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