The Israeli public response to Miriam Peretz’s decision to run for president was incredible. Within hours, Peretz’s Facebook post received over a hundred thousand positive responses. Israelis from right, center, and left came together in the rare act of unity. Even the mainstream media that is usually cynical about topics like this, covered the headline with excitement.
For comparison, the only other candidate, Isaac Herzog, received less than seven thousand positive responses. This is not the first time that Peretz’s popularity defeats Herzog’s mediocrity and lack of charisma.
I personally witnessed it at the IAC summit in Florida in 2019.
Although the IAC summit brought together some of the best key-note speakers, Peretz who was almost anonymous in the US at the time, completely stole the show. It took her 10 minutes as part of the welcoming ceremony to become the main attraction of the 3-day summit. The organizers had to move all her sessions to the largest venues available and even then, there were not enough seats. Mega donors insisted on receiving quality time with her and the summit itinerary had to be changed to allow more sessions with Miriam Peretz.
Isaac Herzog was also a key-note speaker at that same summit. However, it did not seem that his appearance made an impression. He spoke to an empty room and then was never seen again. You cannot compare the two, they simply are not in the same league. Hertzog may be a nice person and decent politician, but he has zero charisma. Even though he has been in the spotlight since he was born (his father was the 6th president of Israel and grandfather was the first Chief Rabbi) he was never able to create any type of buzz of following.
What is Petretz’s secret that allows her to touch so many? I believe that there are three answers to that questions:
- Miriam’s strength and ability to overcome challenges, inspire others to believe in themselves.
- Despite her success and fame, Miriam remains approachable and down to earth.
- Miriam is the best advocate for unity and acceptance and therefore is widely accepted among different sectors of Israeli society.
But most important, it’s Miriam Peretz’s personal story, values, and character that makes her so special.
Peretz (67), was born in Morocco and immigrated to Israel at the age of ten. Upon their arrival, they resided in a ‘maabara’ (transit camp) in the southern city of Beersheba. Despite the poverty and acclimation challenges, Peretz graduated from university and became a teacher. Peretz served as a teacher and then a well-appreciated elementary school principal for over 40 years.
However, it was her personal tragedy and loss that brought her public attention.
In 1998, Peretz’s eldest son Uriel Peretz was killed during an ambush in South Lebanon, while serving as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces. Shortly after his death, Peretz’s husband Eliezer developed a serious illness and later died as well. The family believes that this illness was brought on by heartbreak. In 2010, Peretz’s second son Eliraz Peretz was killed during a battle in the Gaza Strip, also while serving as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces.
Following the deaths of her two eldest sons and her husband, Peretz becomes a public speaker on issues surrounding Zionism and coping with loss, lecturing the youth and Israel Defense Forces soldiers. In 2011, she released the best-seller book Shirat Miriam, which chronicles the story of her life. In 2014, Peretz was selected to light a torch at the celebration of Israel’s 66th Independence Day. In 2018, Peretz received the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement, considered to be the highest cultural honor awarded by Israel.
So, how come is it that despite the clear will of the public, Herzog is still likely to win the vote and become the next president of Israel?
The answer is simple and sad. The Knesset elects the president in a ‘secret vote’. Meaning that the public servants do not have to share with the public who they voted for. Unfortunately, it seems like Israeli politicians do not miss an opportunity to prove to the public that they are motivated by self-interests and can care less about the people of Israel. While it’s clear that Peretz is the president the people of Israel desire and deserve, Hertzog is a ‘white prince’ that can offer politicians a better personal return for their vote.