Shimon Peres was a man who dreamed in broad brush strokes. While others squabbled over minutiae, his vision encompassed regions and decades and fundamental changes. While others pored over the polls for the next elections, he dreamed of peace in the Middle East.
The ninth president of Israel was also one of those rare dreamers who know what it takes to make dreams come true. He didn’t delude himself into believing that lofty ideals can be achieved without getting one’s hands dirty. And he didn’t shy away from compromises and conspiracies and intrigues, or the price of his colleagues’ wrath and the disdain of the masses. Whatever he believed in, he strove to bring to pass, no matter what it took.
Dreams are risky. What if your vision is wrong? What if it will change reality for the worse? The bigger your dreams, and the more you strive to force them on reality, the more damage you can cause. Small dreams, like ripples on a pond, can only cause so much trouble. Big dreams can turn into a tsunami, and break our world apart.
But you don’t gain much by risking little.
Shimon Peres was not always popular in the state he served. Big dreams invoke big disagreements, and many of us thought that his vision endangered us in various ways.
But whether we agreed with him or not, whether we supported him or not, we can’t dispute his courage. And we can’t ignore that he dared to dream and act and struggle not for his own gain, but for our benefit. Shimon Peres served Israel and the Jewish People his entire adult life, and he did so in broad brush strokes and with all he had to give.
We live in a world that encourages small dreams and private lives. We are warned against holding opinions that might hurt someone’s feelings. Sometimes we feel the need to apologize for holding any opinions at all, since everything can-be-true-depending-on-your-point-of-view, and Truth-is-an-outdated-concept-anyway, and all that jazz. And if we do hold opinions, or believe in certain values, they are supposed to remain our own private affair. Since everyone-has-their-own-truth, why should we inflict our vision on others?
In Israel we can’t afford to be gentle and polite and private: We are still very much a work in progress, with great historic challenges to face, and bitter disputes to resolve. Shimon Peres knew that. The courage of his convictions shone bright through the fog of political correctness and the smallness we are encouraged to pursue, daring us to dream big too.
Shimon Peres passed away today, and the world is celebrating his achievements. But I want to celebrate the spirit behind them, and behind his mistakes and failures, too.
Each and every decision Peres made, mistaken or not, popular or not, ultimately successful or not, is a testament to his courage. It’s a testament to the scope of his vision, and to his fearlessness in pursuing it. Each and every decision he made, whether it caused more harm or good in the end, shows us what it takes to change history.
We don’t need to agree with Shimon Peres in order to follow his example. We only need to dare to dream big, and act upon it, and have the courage to risk a hefty price.
May his memory inspire us, and be a blessing to our people.