Sep 29, 2016
Light in the Shadow of a Giant: Saying Goodbye to Shimon Peres
With the heaviest of hearts, we at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County join with individuals, communities and leaders across the globe in deeply mourning this week’s passing of Shimon Peres, z’l. Universally recognized as one of Israel’s greatest leaders, an eloquent spokesperson for his country and a strong advocate for all Jewish peoplehood, this iconic elder statesman will forever occupy an extraordinary place in our people’s story.
Considered the last remaining leader of Israel’s founding generation, his life spanned modern Jewish history from his humble beginnings in Poland, to losing much of his family in the Holocaust, to being part of every major decision facing Israel for seven decades. Peres came by his unparalleled stature with vital roles from the very start of Israel’s statehood and War of Independence, all the way through the country’s most recent endeavors to achieve peace, and its efforts to create a “start-up” nation that have made Israel an economic and technological superpower. Peres held nearly every Israeli cabinet position, serving twice as prime minister and once as president.
A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Peres was renowned for his dedication to pursuing his vision of an attainable peace with Israel’s neighbors. But, while sustaining this quest throughout his years, this veteran of battle was equally committed to Israel’s defense. He avowed, “Practically, prepare as best as you can for the worst, and prepare to change the situation for the better. I do not suggest that Israel reduce its strength. I also don’t suggest that Israel reduce its desire for peace.”
Deeply respected as a true statesman, Peres reached across party lines to build coalitions toward achieving both peace and security for his country. Yet his great disappointment was that fulfilling his vision of peace for Israel was so impeded by the lack of a partner in Arafat and those who followed him.
Those of us fortunate to have been in his presence at multiple venues can attest that, from an intimate gathering to a crowd of thousands in a cavernous auditorium, Peres left no doubt that we were in the presence of a giant. Enrapturing and inspiring all generations through profound and characteristically optimistic discourse, he simply became the “truth-teller,” the narrator of our modern State of Israel and the diaspora. He reminded us that, as a people, we have always had a vision - one that derives from the way we value life.
A longstanding friend to Jewish Federations, Peres was a frequent, honored guest at many of JFNA's General Assemblies, and met regularly with dozens - if not hundreds - of Federation missions across the decades, often warmly welcoming them to his home.
From our grief, our people will rise as always to honor the memory of Shimon Peres, to celebrate his accomplishments, and to strive to make them a light unto our community and our people. We pray also that Israel’s Arab neighbors might be inspired by his example toward his dream of a secure peace for our homeland.
May the memory of Shimon Peres be a blessing, and may his children Dr. Tsvia Walden, Yoni Peres and Nechemia Peres; his eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.