Aron Heller

JERUSALEM: Israel on Wednesday mourned the death of Shimon Peres, a former president and prime minister whose life story mirrored that of the Jewish state, as the government began preparations for a funeral that is expected to bring together world leaders and dignitaries.

Peres, celebrated around the world as a Nobel Prize-winning visionary who pushed his country toward peace during a remarkable seven-decade career, died early Wednesday from complications from a stroke. He was 93.

News of Peres’ death was met with an outpouring of tributes from around the world.

“There are few people who we share this world with, who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves. My friend Shimon was one of those people,” said President Barack Obama.

The White House said Wednesday night that President Barack Obama will lead a U.S. delegation to Jerusalem to attend Peres’ funeral on Friday.

Obama is among a high-powered group of world leaders, including Bill Clinton and French President Francois Hollande, attending what is expected to be the largest such gathering in Israel since the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a Jewish ultranationalist in 1995.

Hillary Clinton is not attending, a campaign aide said on condition of anonymity as the aide was not authorized to discuss scheduling issues.

Officials said Peres’ body would lie in state at the Knesset, or parliament, on Thursday to allow the public to pay final respects.

On Friday morning, the casket will be taken from the Knesset to Mount Herzl, the country’s national cemetery, in Jerusalem, the government said. The ceremony will include eulogies and a procession to the cemetery’s VIP section for burial alongside most of the country’s past leaders. It said large screens would be set up around the cemetery to allow the expected huge crowd to watch.

The government ordered that flags be flown at half-mast at all government institutions, military bases and police stations. It said helipads would be set up near Mount Herzl to allow easier access for visiting dignitaries and to prevent traffic jams.

Peres’ son, Chemi, confirmed his death Wednesday morning to reporters gathered at the hospital where Peres had been treated since suffering a stroke on Sept. 13.

Peres filled nearly every position in Israeli public life and was credited with leading the country through some of its most defining moments, from creating what is believed to be a nuclear arsenal in the 1950s, to disentangling its troops from Lebanon and rescuing its economy from triple-digit inflation in the 1980s, to guiding a skeptical nation into peace talks with the Palestinians in the 1990s.

He was first elected to parliament in 1959 and later held every major Cabinet post — including defense, finance and foreign affairs — and served three brief stints as prime minister.

He was chosen by parliament to a seven-year term as Israel’s ceremonial president in 2007, taking the role of elder statesman.