November 4, 2016

Remembering Shimon Peres (1923-2016)

Sam Russo ‘18
On September 28, Israel and the entire Jewish world lost a great leader. Shimon Peres, who passed away at the age of 93, served the Israeli people as member of the Knesset, minister of defense, finance, transportation, and foreign affairs, prime minister and most recently, president.
Peres was born Shimon Persky in Poland in 1923 and by the time he was 11, he and his parents had moved to what was then Palestine. As a young man, Peres became involved in politics, working with the group that would later become Israel’s Labor Party as well as Histadrut, the group of unions.
In 1944, David Ben-Gurion sent Peres to survey the Sinai Peninsula. There, inspired by what he thought was an eagles’ nest, he changed his last name to Peres, the Hebrew word for eagle.
Politically, Peres is remembered for both seeking peace but also strengthening Israel militarily.
One of the most famous and historic moments in Peres’s life is the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. This agreement, between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, outlined a path to peace. Peres, along with Yasser Arafat – the leader of the PLO – and Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister at the time, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for their work toward peace.
At the same time, Peres created an arms deal with France that strengthened Israel’s military. This deal also helped Israel on the path to nuclear weapons by employing French help for building an Israeli nuclear reactor.
Although he served three times as prime minister, Peres was not once elected. He took the position from Rabin, both after he resigned in 1977 and after he was assassinated in 1995. Peres also served as prime minister for two years, from 1984-1986, through a unique coalition with the opposition party.
Today, Peres represents the end of an era; he was the last Israeli politicians to have been active since the founding of the state. For many, his loss is coupled with the loss of hope for the peace that he so strongly represented.


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