Find a cause that’s larger than yourself and then give your life to it.
Last night we bid farewell to Shimon Peres (1923-2016), a pioneer, dreamer, and champion of the Jewish people. Over the course of his 70 years in service to the State of Israel, he defended the country in war and took bold risks for peace.
From his humble beginnings as a kibbutz shepherd, Peres rose through Israel’s political ranks, becoming its foremost statesman and peacemaker. He played a key role in negotiating peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt and was pivotal in advancing the Oslo accords with the Palestinians. For his efforts, he was awarded both a Nobel Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest honor.
An ardent reader and prolific author of 11 books, Shimon Peres was interested in everything and everyone. After retiring from political life, Peres continued to wake up early, read the paper, and head to work in service of the country he loved as head of the Peres Center for Peace.
Peres dreamed of a new Middle East in which Palestinians and Israelis lived side-by-side as economic partners; where a “cold peace” between the Jewish State and its Arab neighbors would flourish into lasting friendships.
An eternal optimist, Peres was nonetheless never naïve about the challenges Israel confronts. He warned of the threat posed by terrorist groups and their state sponsors, and was committed to preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors even as he sought peace with them. Peres retained the belief that peace was possible with the Palestinians.
“Whoever you try to negotiate with is not a partner. You start from animosity, not from peace. The purpose of negotiation is to convert somebody who is not a partner to somebody who will be a partner,” he said in an interview earlier this year. Shimon Peres spent the past two decades championing innovation, economic growth, and Arab-Israeli coexistence through the peace center that bears his name.
Former president Peres remained young at heart, behaving more like a millennial than a nonagenarian. He was active on Instagram, posted on Facebook and Twitter, and even starred in a music video that went viral.
Shimon Peres, like King David, began life as a shepherd, fought for his nation, became a great leader and never stopped praying for peace. As we mourn the loss of Shimon Peres we remember the words of King David: The Lord shall grant strength to His people; the Lord shall bless His people with peace.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Shimon Peres’ children, grandchildren, the people of Israel, and champions of peace throughout the world who are mourning a statesman and a dreamer
Jeremy Burton Barry Shrage
Executive Director, JCRC President, CJP