I’m shattered after waking up to the early morning news that Shimon Peres passed away, just two weeks after the stroke that put him in the hospital.
On the other hand, I can’t help but smile as I remember his sensational and moving YouTube video released in March of 2012. The clip entitled “Be My Friend for Peace” went viral with over a half-million views. In the video, then an eighty-eight year old Shimon Peres, can be mistaken for a young disk-jockey as he sings to a catchy electronic dance tune.
“Be my friend for peace, I want to hear your voice…stand up and change the world!”
This song, however, wasn’t Shimon Peres’ first time calling for peace. He has consistently echoed his message of peace throughout his impressive political career.
In his fifty-five years in politics, Peres served in the capacity of prime minister, foreign minister, finance minister, defense minister, and transportation minister. He also served as president, which is ceremonial but reserved for only the most respected politicians, from 2007 to 2014.
Shimon Peres was the last political leader of the generation that pioneered the State of Israel. As a young man, he joined the Hagana in its fight for Israel’s establishment and became director-general of the Ministry of Defense at the young age of twenty-nine. Peres is also credited with industrializing the military sector in Israel and developing the nuclear program in Dimona.
Peres’ achievements have been some of the most important and defining in the country’s sixty-eight year lifespan. For a chunk of his career, he was a challenger of his future peacemaking partner, Yitzhak Rabin, in the Labor Party– a partnership that carries a legacy to this day.
The two partners for peace were key visionaries of the Oslo Accords that were signed on September 13, 1993. Oslo’s impact continues today as it led to the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s recognition of Israel and set the basis for the current status quo in the Palestinian Territories. The Accords are blamed by many as the cause for terror in the years that followed against Israelis civilians, but the Accords are still standing over twenty years later regardless of threats from both sides to rescind. For Peres’ participation, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.
Peres was a man of conscience and found common ground with even those that opposed his views. In 2013, he was applauded by twenty-nine Arab and Muslim foreign ministers at the Gulf Security Conference, and participated in a joint prayer for peace with the Pope and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in 2014. He continues to promote peace and coexistence between Jews and Arabs even after his last political office as the Ninth President of Israel through his Peres Center for Peace.
On the day that peace finally arrives in the Middle East, Shimon Peres will be credited as one of its pioneers. As I watch his YouTube video, it becomes clear that Shimon Peres is leaving us with a clear mission to begin the coexistence process. Regardless of political opinions on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, everyone can agree that we must learn to live together on a person-to-person level in this small piece of land.
While Shimon Peres’ physical presence has come to an end, his vision of coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians will live on for eternity.
In Shimon Peres’ honor, may we constantly sing and dance to his catchy tune as a reminder that it’s our mission to coexist— by standing up for peace, we will change the world.