The Jewish nation mourns the loss of one of its great sons, great leaders, great men.
Former President Shimon Peres died early Wednesday morning, having suffered a stroke on September 13, from which he never recovered. Peres was buried earlier this morning at Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery, not too far from another great visionary, Binyamin Zeev (Theodor) Herzl.
A famous Peres quote, “People that don’t fantasize, don’t do fantastic things,” describes him perfectly. He was one of Israel’s most beloved and appreciated public figures, an intellectual, politician, poet and an outstanding speaker. But most of all this winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was recognized for being a dreamer. He was dreaming for all of us—dreaming our present, dreaming our future.
Stripes of all colors streaked our skies, carrying leaders, presidents, kings and ministers from across the world, who cleared their busy schedules to pay respect for the last time to a leader they all knew so very well. A leader who challenged them to think bigger, a leader who argued with them, a leader who taught them to dream as a child, yet lead as lion.
“I love my land, I’m in love with the Jewish people,” Peres said. When I wrote about his passing on Wednesday morning, friends from across the JCC Movement shared their own personal “Peres experience.” This is who he was—traveling across the world, a tireless visionary always mingling with the crowd, taking pictures, shaking hands, curious to meet new friends, passionate to engage with his people, relegating the podium to the minimum time required.
On Wednesday, Peres’ lifelong responsibility for the Jewish people, a career that spanned nearly seven decades, one that often kept him at his office, at the age of 93, for more than 12 hours daily, came to an end. This Friday, the stopping of our workweek, begins a time when Peres is not here to care for us. We lost this great leader as the year 5776 comes to a close. It is not a year to be carved in our hearts and in history books as a great one.
So as the Hebrew month of Elul is completing its cycle, Israel’s hot and steamy summer draws to its end. Leaves are blowing in the wind and wandering birds fly high above, looking for serenity. The Days of Awe surround us; they fill our hearts and souls with prayers, exaltation and hope.
As a nation, we have faced many hardships, difficulties and challenges, including a renewed terror wave in Israel.
The world didn’t see much blessing in 5776 either. Our neighboring countries have faced heartbreaking catastrophes that have forced hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. And Europe, in many cases their destination, is hurting, suffering from evil terror attacks, scarring the continent almost daily—scars that will leave their ugly mark in the social fabric of Western society.
With a world so blinded by evil, hatred and violence, Shimon Peres’s bright vision will be greatly missed. But one person will be blessed to inherit Peres’s dreamy eyes—the Peres family announced that with respect to their father’s request, his corneas were donated. That was the man—even in death, reaching out to help one of his beloved people, always for the other.
In just two days Jews around the globe will dip apple into honey and welcome the new Hebrew year with great expectations for a sweet, better—so much better— 5777.
May Shimon Peres’s dream be our reality: May we never lose hope, may we fantasize and create fantastic things together, may Israel be noted for its great wonders and achievements, may we all stand together as one in good times, as we did and do, in challenging ones.
I pray the New Year be filled with all the promise that lies ahead. May the curses and adverse circumstances of 5776 come to a close and a new year, with its blessings, rise upon us.
“אבינו מלכינו, שמע קולנו, חדש עלינו שנה טובה”
“Lord our God, Hear our voice, bless this year.”
Shanah Tovah and Shabbat shalom
Leah Garber, Vice President. Director, JCC Israel Center