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Shimon Peres, the Israeli leader who died Tuesday at 93, could — like so many of his colleagues — trace his own history alongside that of his country.

Born in 1923, he was a quarter-century older than the state of Israel. In his earliest appearance in the pages of TIME, when he was a young director of the Defense Ministry in 1957, he was worried when and whether Israel would reach a population of 5 million; that population is now over 8 million.

As the nation grew, so did his career, through a variety of ministry portfolios, several turns as Prime Minister and eventually the presidency.

In 1977, when he became leader of Israel’s Labor Party, TIME explained how he got there:

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But in the years that followed, he would come to believe that the world was changing faster than he was.

Though he was “widely regarded as a hawk,” the 1977 story noted, he was beginning to take a more moderate approach to the world. Decades later, in his most recent major interview with TIME, he took issue with that idea. That perception that he had gone “from hawk to dove” was a misconception, he said — “I didn’t change. I think the situation has changed” — and he was dedicated to continuing to see Israeli’s evolution through for as long as he could, which he did until the end of his life.

“The things that were done belong to the past,” he said. “I’m mainly occupied with the things that can and should be done tomorrow.”

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