Shimon Peres is not often at a loss for words: even at 91, after seven years as President, his ability to conjure up platitudes on a moment’s notice is unmatched. But yesterday morning, eight months out of office, as Peres sat on the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, he seemed truly befuddled. He had been invited to a non-descript hangar at the Tel Aviv port for a sneak preview of HBO’s Game of Thrones traveling exhibit, which will go on display to the Israeli public during Chol Hamoed next week, in advance of the hit fantasy show’s fifth season, simulcast worldwide beginning April 12th. The 25,000 or so free tickets to the exhibit were snatched up long ago, but HBO and their Israeli partners (yes Satellite Television) were still eager for a publicity stunt.
When Queen Elizabeth II visited the show’s set in Belfast last year, she closely inspected the eponymous Throne (forged from 1,000 swords, or so they say), but declined to sit upon it. Shimon Peres, three years the Queen’s senior and a royal of less vegetarian tastes, had fewer qualms: his visit to the exhibit, accompanied by Britain’s ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gold, was all about the photo op.
Elana Loewenthal, HBO’s director of international marketing, whisked Peres past the props and costumes on display, briefly explaining why particular items, such as the three dragon eggs, were fan favorites (though when the former President expressed his desire to try out Ice, Sean Bean’s massive sword from the show’s first season, Loewenthal politely demurred). The whole affair was remarkably spoiler-free. At the tableau depicting last season’s Purple Wedding, Peres was told only that “something bad happened here”—and the tour skipped the memorial corner depicting the show’s countless deceased characters.
“So you want me to sit on it?” Peres asked when he arrived at the throne, though he knew he had no choice at that point.
“Don’t take this seriously,” he warned the photographers. “Elections were last month.”
As he sat on the Iron Throne, Peres grew more comfortable, and the words began to flow. He wished all Israelis a happy Passover, and observed that now is the time that we commemorate our release from bondage (“Perhaps we can view this as Pharaoh’s throne?” he wondered aloud). As for Game of Thrones, Peres said he thought it was delightful that so much effort had been put into stimulating the imagination of children.
On his way out, Peres was approached by an old woman. When he recognized her, he cried out her name. Aliza Shevetz had served as stenographer to generations of Defense Ministers, all the way back to David Ben-Gurion, when Peres directed the Ministry. Shevetz is still spry at 101. In fact, it was her birthday. Peres joined a quick happy birthday chorus, posed for a few more photographs and then the former President and Prime Minister, Nobel Prize laureate—and newly-anointed King of the Andals and the First Men—made his exit.
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