At the Sept. 22 ADL dinner, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Google chairman Eric Schmidt were seated next to each other – and not just because both were honorees.
Peres, who guided the startup nation to become one of the world’s most technically inventive incubators — second only to Silicon Valley — was brainstorming with Schmidt. Peres has long had a passion for science; he has set up a foundation to explore the human brain. Schmidt, the software engineer, sees the Internet’s potential to weaken anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice.
To be sure, after an eight-year term as president of Israel, Peres is looking for his next job.
His granddaughter, screenwriter/actress Mika Almog, introduced a light hearted video she produced showing Peres in quest of future opportunities, at age 91. At the unemployment bureau, Peres is asked about his experience.
“I was an excellent cow milker,” he claims. “It’s all automatic milking today,” says the stern woman looking at his job application.
“I was a shepherd—never lost a sheep.” The woman frowns: “Everyone’s vegan now.”
“I was minister of postal services, both incoming and outgoing.” The woman grows painfully impatient: “Everything’s on email now.”
“I built RAFAEL.” That expensive restaurant in Tel Aviv? “No, RAFAEL, advanced defense systems for…” So, you have no experience she says, and terminates the interview.
Peres tries his hand at various jobs that don’t require experience, such as pizza delivery and service station attendant, and bombs every time. As a supermarket cashier, he announces the day’s special, which turns out to be the story of Special Operation Entebbe.
As a security guard he asks, “Are you armed? Sniper? Ballistic missile?” The answer is no each time, and he responds, “Excellent. The intellect is our finest weapon.”
As a nightclub standup, he asks, “You know how you build a textile factory in the Negev and everyone thinks it’s something else?” Silence. “Anyone here from Dimona?” Sullen faces. He taps the microphone. “Is this on?”
The fearless nonagenarian finally finds his calling as a skydiving coach. Skydiving? “This is the man who taught me how to swim,” Almog explains. “I thought I’d return the favor and teach him how to fly.”
Peres spoke about the miracle of a people that, despite anti-Semitism and persecution through the ages, has survived.
“Out of communism was born the mighty Soviet Union, the great communist party. Out of Judaism was born a tiny little movement. But look what happened to communism and look what happened to Zionism. They started big, and they lost. We started small, and we won.”
The reason we won, he added, was because we have two armies: a moral army led by ADL and Abe Foxman as the commander, and a real army with soldiers, who just went through a very demanding, very difficult war against terror.
The greatest victory, he said, will be peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
In presenting Schmidt with an ADL International Leadership Award, Foxman pointed out that in a recent visit to Israel, Schmidt described it as a “tech miracle” in which Google has important partnerships and intends to expand its investments.
“Eric may be the largest individual investor in Israeli tech,” Foxman said.
Schmidt said that pursuing hate, which is ADL’s mandate, has been made easier with the invention of the Internet. “The Internet is the best thing ever invented to combat prejudice. The enemy of prejudice is critical thinking,” he said.
“Hate thrives in isolation,” he said, but now that we are all connected, “it will never be possible for someone to spew out falsehoods at the level that have built the kind of hatred that ADL has been fighting for 100 years. People will detect it and fix it with shame and education.”
For the first time, Schmidt said, we can see everything. “We’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that ‘Never Again’ is true universally for everyone. If you’re prejudiced, we’re going to find out. We’re going to know. Fabrications, these lies, which are ridiculous, but ultimately hurtful and bad, can be revealed. We can identify these hate mongers.”
Tim Boxer was a columnist at the New York Post for two decades and has been writing a column for The Jewish Week for 35 years; at the same time he's been a writer-photographer at 15MinutesMagazine.com for 16 years. He is the author of “Jewish Celebrity Hall of Fame,” interviews of Hollywood stars about their Jewish roots.