In rare tribute, Obama orders flags flown at half-staff for Peres

WASHINGTON (JTA) – U.S. President Obama announced he was heading to Jerusalem to attend Shimon Peres’ funeral and ordered flags flown at half-staff, a rare honour for foreign leaders.

In a proclamation late Wednesday, Obama said he ordered flags to fly at “half-staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions” through sunset Sept. 30.

“I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations,” the proclamation said.

A flag flown at half-staff for a foreign leader is rare; Obama ordered the honour after the death of Nelson Mandela, who led South Africa out of Apartheid, in 2013. Prior to that, the last such foreign leader honored was Pope John Paul II, whom president George W. Bush honoured in 2005.

Obama also announced he would lead a delegation to Peres’ funeral in Jerusalem on Friday. He did not say who else was included.

After hearing of the death at 93 of the Israeli former president and prime minister late Tuesday, Obama issued an unusually lengthy and passionate tribute.

A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever,” Obama said. “Shimon Peres was a soldier for Israel, for the Jewish people, for justice, for peace, and for the belief that we can be true to our best selves — to the very end of our time on Earth, and in the legacy that we leave to others. For the gift of his friendship and the example of his leadership, todah rabah, Shimon.”

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