More than 200 Israeli leaders gathered yesterday at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem to honor the memory of Israel’s ninth president, Shimon Peres, on the fifth anniversary of his passing.
Those in attendance included President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, along with members of the Peres family, government ministers, past and present members of Knesset, former political colleagues of Peres, diplomats, and supporters and staff of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.
In addition to serving as president, Peres also served twice as prime minister, as foreign minister, defense minister, and finance minister, plus additional roles in the nation’s government. Known for encouraging others to dream big, his mark on Israel and the world continues to remain strong.
A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Peres is considered one of the founding fathers of Israel. Born in Poland, he immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1934. His Peres Center biography relates that “His grandfather accompanied the family to the train station, and when he said goodbye to the young Shimon, he whispered his final will and testament: “I have one request of you — always stay Jewish!” A few short years later, his grandfather and the rest of the family who remained in Wiszniew, Poland, perished in the Holocaust.
Peres also served as the founding chairman of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center in Jerusalem, personally mentoring me during my early work in Israel. Together, we presented our organization’s prestigious Friends of Zion award to numerous leaders, including heads of state, prime ministers, and kings.
Shimon Peres’s impact continues to influence not only his peace center and writings, but also the lives of the many people he directly influenced during his lifetime. I am among those who were privileged to work with him and continue to honor his legacy today through the growing impact of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center in Jerusalem.