Shimon Peres was one of Israel’s founding fathers, he was a visionary and a statesman. But he was also a mentor and an inspiration.
People know about Shimon Peres’ vision and his drive, about his critical role in securing Israel’s past and his tireless work to build a better future. He was the father of Israel’s defence industries and strategic deterrence and the most high-profile advocate for peace in the Middle East. He spearheaded Israel’s transformation in the high-tech superpower and ensured that the latest technological trends were on the Israeli agenda.
Peres believed in the power of young people to bring about change, he believed in optimism as a driving force, he believed that women weren’t only equal to men but that without equality for women societies could never truly thrive. He believed in science as a force for good. But more than anything he believed in the Jewish people and he believed in the State of Israel and he loved them both.
But there were other sides to Peres which the public rarely saw.
He was a perfectionist who would insist on going over a speech again and again until every word was perfect. But he could speak for an hour with no notes.
He was a man of science and technology and saw them as a force for good but he loved literature and wrote poems and songs as often as he wrote about foreign policy.
Looking back on his time as President people will remember big interviews and big speeches but I’ll remember a 90-year-old man with the energy and enthusiasm of a twenty-year-old.
I’ll remember the first time I walked into his office when I understood what it meant to be in the presence of someone with real gravitas.
I’ll remember watching thousands of people have that same experience over the next few years.
I’ll remember the phone call when my son was born even though there were ten more important things on his desk.
I’ll remember being admonished for not reading enough poetry.
I’ll remember his patience for photographs with people even at the end of an exhausting day.
But more than anything I’ll remember his optimism. Not naïve optimism but optimism as a motivating force and a force for good.
Optimism as a willingness not just to dream but a belief that if you work hard enough you can make those dreams become a reality.
Peres often said that, “The Jewish people’s greatest contribution to history is dissatisfaction! We’re a nation born to be discontented. Whatever exists we believe can be changed for the better.”
That’s his legacy.
Believe that things can be better but then wake up every morning and work to make that belief a reality.
Yair Zivan is a former foreign press spokesman to Shimon Peres.