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SHIMON PERES: THE DEATH OF VISION?

September 29, 2016

World leaders are pouring into Jerusalem today. While traffic snarls irritate us locals, we confront loss, the loss of a man whose vitality and persistence inspired even his adversaries.

Peres brought us vision. He painted for us a picture of the future that awaits us. During the post-Oslo years, before Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, I had the opportunity to train mid-career Foreign Ministry officials, people in their forties seeking advancement through this course. Some of them were back from postings abroad, but many had been working here in Israel, in various capacities within the Ministry. They told of the atmosphere that had erupted in the Ministry, under Peres and Director Uri Savir, following the signing of the Oslo agreements at the White House with Yasser Arafat. One of the course participants described the Ministry environment at the time: “Each day, someone would burst into the corridor, shouting, ‘We’ve just opened a commercial office in Qatar!’ or, ‘We’ve arranged a secret scientific mission to Kuwait!’ People were falling all over each other to nail yet another breakthrough. The competition was incredible, but our hearts were soaring!” Peres’ “New Middle East” was taking shape.

Throughout his life, Shimon Peres was accused by his detractors of many things. What never daunted him was the accusation that he was naïve. Peres’ naiveté flew in the face of the prevailing Israeli cynicism. The average Israeli will absorb any condemnation, but being a sucker, believing in something that is unlikely to work out.… culturally taboo here. The last thing an Israeli wants is to be accused of naiveté. It’s deep in our history, in our bones. We will do anything to avoid getting caught unprepared for trouble.

But here was Shimon Peres, indefatigably committed to his vision, to our vision of the possible. A life-lover, one of his aides told of an exhausting day’s work ending at 1 AM in some European capital. All the team could think of was finding their hotel beds, and Peres would grin at his young team and say, “Hey, do you think there’s a place in this city where we could still find a decent glass of wine?” The aide told how, at the conclusion of a successful mission, while others were busy savoring the gains, Peres’ question was, inevitably, “What’s next?”

So now, what’s next for us, as we gear up to carry on? The regal, distinguished visionary is gone. The vision is not. At last week’s Sulha gathering, a crowd of Palestinians and Israelis created together an island of vision. In a few short hours, we built the trust that enabled people to confront forgiveness. Samira, one of our core leaders, cooked an incredible Arabic meal, we were nourished. And we nourished each other with listening, lights low, candles blazing on the centerpiece. An Israeli and two Palestinians shared with the group their work at forgiving, when forgiving is the last thing they wanted to do. Broken families and the weight of injustice, fractured relationships, healed by leaping the fires of resentment to forgiveness. Palestinians, knowing we Israelis have all been soldiers, looked in our eyes and shared their hearts. Israelis, knowing some of the Palestinians had fought us in the streets, sat close and listened.

As the evening wound down, we joined hands and sang, cleansing fear and anger, replacing them with trust and hope. Shimon Peres lives in us. Like him, we will roll up our sleeves and heave to, dragging our glowing humanity through the desert of resentment to the oasis on the other side. We will celebrate our naiveté, shedding suspicion like old skin, rebirthing each other’s intention, moving forward.

Peres said, “The world is made of givers and takers. The takers create enemies, the givers create friends.” We are giving, Shimon, we are friends. The vision lives. Rest in peace.

Yoav Peck

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One Comment
  1. Jeff Goldstein permalink

    great article! Hag Samach!​

    On Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 8:26 PM, jerusalemheart wrote:

    > yoavpeck posted: “World leaders are pouring into Jerusalem today. While > traffic snarls irritate us locals, we confront loss, the loss of a man > whose vitality and persistence inspired even his adversaries. Peres brought > us vision. He painted for us a picture of the futur” >

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