It took me a few days to digest the passing of Shimon Peres and what it means, to me personally and to Israel. Much has been written on subject, about his enormous contribution to Israel’s security, future, stability and sustainability, as well his determination and devotion to peace with our neighbors, the Palestinians and the entire middle east. He truly was a visionary and a prophet, a man of enormous ambition, charisma and passion, an intellectual, a lover of life and the living and a believer in the power of the human spirit to heal and build, an indefatigable optimist, and the epitome of a “wise man”. Of course as all humans are, he too was not without fault. Much too has been written about his moments of weakness, conflict and crisis, but all said and done, here was a man who dedicated his life to progress and peace…. A public servant for more than four decades in every influential position in Israeli leadership, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, unique in every way. Peres was not Israel as it is, but Israel as it wishes to be… as it can be, if only….
I had the honor of spending many hours with Shimon Peres on various occasions. Personal and public meetings, conferences, performances, private lunches, football-for-peace games, meetings in Israel and abroad, Peres gave me endless opportunities to lend my voice to the greater cause of Peace and co-existence. He invited me to participate in momentous events the world over where I could meet incredible people and create larger and larger circles of influence. I think maybe he heard and saw in my voice and actions, an artistic reflection of his own. He would call me, sometimes, if he had seen me on television, just to say how wonderful he thought the performance was. He would attend my gala concerts and come on stage before the show to say flattering words of introduction. He invited me to the Presidential residence once for a private lunch, and encouraged me to consider a political career. And on my 25th career anniversary, he sent a beautiful video message where he said amazing words of praise, poetic and deep, about Gil Dor and myself and our musical journey: an enormous compliment coming from so great a man. He would often say: Achinoam, you do not sing the song, you are the song.
Just one month before he passed away, we had our last meeting. I presented a project to him for which I was hoping to gain his support. He was attentive, encouraging and curious, asked questions, suggested ideas, and finally said : i'll think about it. Then he passed away, and left me ..and every one of us…with all the thinking to do on our own.
I attended his funeral. Rising at 5 in the morning to make it in time for the arranged transportation to Jerusalem, I thought to myself: I owe him this, and so much more, for the endless gifts and inspiration he gave me in the 20 years since I met him for the first time.
The funeral was attended by world leaders, dignitaries, representatives of 60 countries , colleagues, friends and family. It was impressive, one could even say, unprecedented. President Obama, Prince Charles, the King of Spain, presidents of France past and present, and the list goes on and on. Mahmud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, was also there. He proved once again what a brave and open-minded leader he is, and despite all attempts to discredit him, a worthy partner for peace.
I listened to the speeches. Rubi Rivlin, Amos Oz and Barak Obama where the ones I appreciated most…Obama most of all, beginning with his presence in the first place, and on to his beautiful and powerful message. Beyond all his words of wisdom, he was the only one to mention the presence of Mahmoud Abbas…as always, we need someone from the outside to point out what is so clearly and significantly before our eyes. I shall miss that man…what a “mensch” he is.
And I shall miss Shimon Peres. I loved him, loved the idea of him, loved his dreams and aspirations, as they were, and remain, my own. I loved knowing he was there…and it seemed as if he always would be. Even in recent year, when i was often disappointed by what I perceived as his lack of involvement in stopping the deterioration of the moral fiber of Israeli Society, his lack of willingness to criticize what so clearly needed to be, and reluctance to be more assertive in declarations and actions regarding peace with the Palestinians, I always believed his intentions were good, looked upon him with very little judgement and much warmth and respect. In his later years he was showered with much affection , within Israel and beyond it's borders..the kind of unconditional love he had sought his entire life. I guess you can't blame a man for basking in acceptance and admiration, after a life time of struggles, opponents and harsh critics. Love is addictive.
What huge void he created in his passing. And who is to fill that void? looking at current Israeli leadership, can we locate anyone with even a fraction of his stature?
I am sad that he is gone, but beyond the personal sense of loss, and maybe because of the national sense of loss, I feel empowered. I feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders, more clearly than ever, for there is so much work to be done and we cannot afford to be disheartened or sluggish. Peres was never. His legacy is that of dreaming, believing and doing, undeterred. He left us with much unfinished business to attend to, and I for one, plan to attend to it. When we lost Rabin, I felt a sense of urgency, a burning desire to bear the torch that had fallen from his hands. I have borne it, and was borne, and born, by it. Now, it feels more like moving from the galley to the wheel: steady as she goes, with the good winds of hope in her sails.
Thank you Shimon.
May you rest in peace.
Noa, Oct 3, 2016