“Sometimes people ask me, ‘What is the greatest achievement you have reached in your lifetime or that you will reach in the future?’ So I reply that there was a great painter named Mordecai Ardon, who was asked which picture was the most beautiful he had ever painted. Ardon replied, ‘The picture I will paint tomorrow.’ That is also my answer.” Shimon Peres.
There will be many eulogies given, many comments made about the late, and great Shimon Peres, whose funeral we at EIPA watching today with great sadness. As the BBC noted this morning, the gathering of former and current world leaders, including a rare visit to Jerusalem from Mahmoud Abbas, to his funeral is not something you see every day.
But then Shimon was not your everyday man.
One of the stories that we think encapsulates the man, came from Bret Stephens, who for a time was Editor of Jerusalem Post.
Mr Peres was then opposition leader and the government had just published a bill he was critical of. He saw the front page of the paper and immediately phoned Stephens, livid that he hadn’t been quoted. After the verbal tongue lashing, Mr Stephens was able to mutter “you are mistaken…you are quoted extensively after the jump”. “The jump?” replied Shimon. Mr Stephens then explained to him that the jump was the front page, which has limited space, but that Mr Peres had been extensively quoted on the main report in the inside pages. “I see. Let me look” said Shimon before hanging up.
Two days later, in the post arrived a hand written letter of apology from Mr Peres to Mr Stephens.
Somehow it just encapsulates the man and the Israel he represented. Warm, compassionate, passionate too and ready to be tough when you need to be, but always seeking peace.
Shimon Peres was the last of the founding fathers. Those heroes of Israel that almost everybody has heard of: David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, Golda Meir and Yitzak Rabin.
But even among this great pantheon of Israelis, Shimon was something different. Something of a contradiction to many. His first years were spent ensuring the security of the state, he almost single handedly built the army, navy and air force to the mightiest in the middle East, and also created the suspicion of nuclear weapons in Dimona.
As he put it in 2009, “The nuclear option is that most of our neighbors, who want to destroy us, believe that Israel has the capability to destroy them. Their suspicion is our strength.” To this day, Israel will not admit as to the existence or not of a nuclear deterrent.
The rationale was simple: be as strong as a lion but negotiate like a lamb.
He was utterly wedded to peace, utterly convinced, even until his death, that peace was the only way forward.
And we at EIPA believe that this approach, of strengthening Israel yet simultaneously seeking peace has helped safeguard the lives of millions of Jews around the world.
Shimon, the world owes you a debt of gratitude, and countless Israelis owe their very lives and existence to you.
What can any of us possibly say to you? You cannot translate a deep, tearful, tight, heartfelt, grateful and joyous hug into words.
But that’s what most of us who admired you so very deeply, wished we had the opportunity, just once, to do.
Thank you Shimon for all the pictures you painted . You have more than earned your rest. Alav HaShalom.
And thank you reader for your ongoing support.