Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Remembering Shimon Peres - The Coolest Nonagenarian

Back on September 13, 1993 I remember watching the signing of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn and being in awe of both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. These two men, I recall thinking, were the old guard of Israeli statesman. They were fighters on the battlefield helping Israel gain statehood and then spent decades as political and diplomatic leaders as the Jewish state grew. I felt love and deep respect for both men, but there was something about Peres that was different from Rabin in my mind.

Rabin struck me as hard and very guarded. While he was willing to sign the peace accords and shake Arafat's hand, he still seemed hesitant and even distant on that sunny afternoon. Peres on the other hand had a cordial, softer side to him. A warm smile and a gentle demeanor. He reminded me very much of my grandfather. Later in his life, Peres displayed a playful, fun side as well. This was especially true when his term as Israeli President (a mostly honorific position) was about to come to an end. Peres and his staff published a very funny video in which the nonagenarian went looking for a job around Israel:

For me, I really appreciated that Peres was determined to stay in the public eye even after his seven decades in leadership roles for Israel. Despite his advanced age, he took advantage of social media to stay relevant and to connect with the younger generation of Israelis and Diaspora Jews. In 2012, I wrote a blog post about how Peres was looking for Facebook friends.

Peres was always interested in new technology and helping Israel succeed as the Silicon Valley of the Middle East. I enjoyed watching him get excited about the Internet and drones and the information technology that Israel has been advancing. I had the honor to hear Shimon Peres speak on several occasions including at AIPAC policy conferences. While I never met him, I will cherish being ranked on the same list as Shimon Peres this past March when we both appeared on the JTA's list of 25 most influential people on Jewish Twitter -- he at #19 and I at #9.

Condolences have been sent to Israel from all over the world. Pope Francis wrote, "As the State of Israel mourns Mr. Peres, I hope that his memory and many years of service will inspire us all to work with ever greater urgency for peace and reconciliation between peoples. His legacy will truly be honored and the common good for which he so diligently labored will find new expressions, as humanity strives to advance on the path toward enduring peace."

President Obama wrote, "Shimon was the essence of Israel itself—the courage of Israel’s fight for independence, the optimism he shared with his wife Sonya as they helped make the desert bloom, and the perseverance that led him to serve his nation in virtually every position in government across the entire life of the State of Israel. A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever. Shimon Peres was a soldier for Israel, for the Jewish people, for justice, for peace, and for the belief that we can be true to our best selves - to the very end of our time on Earth, and in the legacy that we leave to others. For the gift of his friendship and the example of his leadership, todah rabah, Shimon."

My heart goes out to the Peres family and to all the citizens of the State of Israel on the passing of this beloved elder statesman. May the righteous memory of Shimon Peres be for blessings.

1 comment:

Rabbi Samuel Press said...

Very beautiful, inspiring and informative. Thank you.