Yesterday, the State of Israel, the Jewish community, and the whole world lost one of its greatest leaders, Shimon Peres. In honor of his memory and remarkable life, I would like to share with you the beautiful statement from our movement, the Jewish Reconstructionist Communities.
The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association mourn the loss of Shimon Peres, z’l, who passed away near Tel Aviv on Tuesday after recently suffering a stroke. Shimon Peres was one of the most important and influential founders and shapers of the State of Israel. An early military leader and defense strategist in the young state, in later years Peres built a political career that advocated strongly for peace between Israel and all of its neighbors. After playing a crucial role in the peace agreements Israel made with the PLO and with Jordan in the 1990s, Peres devoted boundless energy towards a dream of a new Middle East, based on foundations of peace, political and territorial compromise, cultural and technological cooperation, and regional strategies for improving education, health, and infrastructure. The Peres Center for Peace, which he founded in 1996, will carry on his deep commitment to the pursuit of peace through diplomatic, social, economic, and cultural ties with Palestinians and with the other peoples of the Middle East.
Peres arrived with his family in British Mandate Palestine in 1934, at age 11. In his youth he helped found Kibbutz Alumot. At age 20, he became Secretary of the Labor-Zionist Youth Movement. At 24, in 1947, David Ben-Gurion tapped him to be responsible for military personnel and arms for the Haganah. Soon after he served as head of Israel’s Navy, and then as Director General of the Defense Ministry, all before turning 30.
In 1959 he won election to the Knesset and held a seat there until 2007. He is the only person to have served as both Israel’s Prime Minister and as its President. During the second Rabin administration, Peres initiated and conducted the negotiations that led to the 1993 Olso Agreement between Israel and the PLO. He received the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, in 1994. After leading a unity government in the 1980s, he served a second term as Prime Minister after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995. In 2007 he was elected Israel’s 9th president by the Knesset, and in 2012 President Barack Obama awarded Peres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest American civilian honor offered to people for their work for world peace.
Beyond his remarkable achievements, Shimon Peres was an important part of Israel’s identity, and a spokesman for its best aspirations, for as long as anyone with ties to Israel can remember. His loss will be felt powerfully throughout Israel, the Middle East, and the world. His dream of a more peaceful, just, interconnected, and cooperative Middle East will continue to inspire the Jewish people and seekers of peace throughout the world. We add our condolences to everyone mourning his loss in Israel and everywhere, and we offer prayers for comfort to his wife, Sonya, as well as his three children and six grandchildren. May his memory be a blessing, and may his vision inspire us to continue the work for co-existence, humanity, and peace.