FIVE YEARS WITHOUT PERES, ISRAEL PAYS TRIBUTE


















(t) President Isaac Herzog, photos by Kobi Gideon




















By TEHILLA BIRNBAUM

MOUNT HERZL – Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut, head of the Israel Prison Service Katy Perry, and all the leading officials and diplomats went up this morning to Mount Herzl for the memorial service in memory of the ninth president of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres z”l.

President Isaac Herzog: “I remember from my childhood how my mother told me that she read Shimon’s palm and predicted that he would be prime minister.”

“So many look only at the present, especially in the field of politics. The here and now draw us and all of our resources. As the ninth president of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres knew to look into the future, to look into the distance, and to take off. The feeling was always that he was a kind of chess player, and in his eyes the chessboard was the history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Always three, five, 10 steps ahead. Foreseeing the challenges, and more than that – and more important than that – identifying opportunities. The human, economic, scientific and technological capital. The human development and its direction. Shimon Peres brought these three qualities – the versatility, the persistence, and the vision – to the institution of the presidency, and led this important institution to new heights. He succeeded in connecting his deep roots, between intellectual greatness and phenomenal historical and cultural knowledge, to technological progress, and to a connection to the future generation of our country. He succeeded in leading the State of Israel to its impressive place among the family of nations, with great intelligence, outstanding statesmanship and uncompromising determination.

I remember from my childhood how my mother, may she live a long life, told with affection and humor that, already in the 1950s, she read in Shimon’s palm – as we all called him at home – that he was going to be prime minister. I mention this story not only as a nice anecdote, but because for me Shimon was an excellent mentor my entire adult life.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett: “In a speech that he gave on his 90th birthday, Shimon Peres spoke, among other things, the following sentence. Try to imagine it in his voice: “Today I understand that the true power is the power of the good will.” I chose to open my remarks precisely with this saying, because I think today that everyone understands how true it is, how great the power of good will truly is. The good will between people, sometimes with different opinions and with different ideas, but with the power of good will to bridge the divides and the differences and to strengthen the common denominator of us all, of this good country, of this good people. The good will that allows us to place personal desires and hurtful past injuries to the side and to unify for an important purpose, the good will, that which places the good of the country before everything, while being willing to bear a personal price on its behalf. The past few months prove to us all how much strength can be concealed in good will.”
 
Professor Tzvia Walden, Daughter of Shimon Peres: “Beyond the thanks I also want to do an introspection. In the five years that have passed the technological revolution has broadened and deepened. Borders between peoples and countries have been breached. As you liked to say: “Science has no fences and partitions and doesn’t need a passport.” We need to utilize the new era to the fullest, to look for innovative methods and to strengthen here a peace of truth, a real peace – hot or cold.

The Abraham Accords were born and grew as an initiative to which you were one of the partners. We have to be careful that they won’t use them as a fig leaf, but they will be an impetus for a new Middle East. After all, you always said that we should give up land for the sake of human life. And you wrote: “The future of the Zionist project is dependent upon adoption of the two-state solution.”

You said about yourself: “As a leader I nurtured the hope that Israel would be a flourishing country, a just country, a country of peace and ethics, a light unto the nations.”

Your words are our to-do list – we will continue to remember you as a man of vision and action, and we will do our best with all our might to live up to your legacy, not to surrender the initiative or to abandon the hope. We will seek peace and pursue it.”

Chemi Peres, Chair of the Peres Center for Peace & Innovation and Shimon Peres’s Son: “This nation needs leadership that will serve it. A leadership that will work on its behalf – not one that will try to control it.”

“Since he left, the country is turbulent and doesn’t know quiet. We live alongside the raging corona virus, and in the shadow of threats of war and terror. And all this while the splits that have torn Israeli society apart are bleeding.

This nation needs a leadership that will serve it. A leadership that will work on its behalf – not one that will try to control it. A leadership that will not be deterred from action for the sake of a better future, for us and for the coming generations.

We need a renewal, optimism, faith in our ability to create a better future. Because those who live on a small island need to live together, to find the good in diversity, to live in brotherhood, out of mutual respect, and in striving for co-existence.

My father believed in every one of us, citizens of Israel. As a nation and as individuals. He wished for the moment when the stormy winds would calm, and the lines would merge. For the day when we will pursue the desired peace together without fear and terror, until we achieve it.

Just like that, together, out of service for a common purpose that is bigger than us all, will the day come that we will spread our wings and take off to new horizons, when we are freed from the fetters of the past. I too, like you father, believe. Even if it tarries, it will come.

Many ask us, and themselves: what would Shimon Peres say about what’s happening now, and even more important – what would Peres do? How would he deal with corona, and what would he say about the Abraham Accords?

In his life Peres knew to give things on the daily agenda an original depth, clear and sharp, and to mark new horizons and opportunities, that led all of us not only to listen, but also to think.

We can’t give the answers to these questions in his name. They are found in everything that he did and said over the course of his life.”

Tzipi Gonen, who was rescued at Entebbe: “Shimon saved me once in planning and approving the operation and a second time mentally when he arranged the meeting at the Peres Center for Peace.”

“I had one short and fleeting meeting with Shimon during my student days at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba. Shimon came for a visit to a mall in the city and I didn’t hesitate for a moment to approach him. I told him quickly who I was. His wonderful eyes filled with tears. He hugged me and said “It makes me very happy to see you as a student and to see how you have overcome the past disaster.” I went home and excitedly told my husband that I had met one of the angels of Entebbe.

Five years ago, on the 40th anniversary of the operation, Shimon hosted the children of Entebbe at the Peres Center for Peace. The subject of the children of Entebbe never came up until Shimon opened his door and his heart. Thanks to this meeting something opened up inside my soul. I met the children of Entebbe, who have become my soulmates, and Sorin Hershko, the beloved soldier thanks to whom I am standing here today.

Shimon saved me once in planning and approving the operation and a second time mentally when he arranged the meeting at the Peres Center for Peace.”

The memorial ceremony for the ninth president of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres z”l, took place today, 4th October, at the Great Leaders of the Nation plot on Mount Herzl.

The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut, more than 50 ambassadors to Israel, the entire state leadership, family members, Peres’s office, friends and loved ones.



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