Personal Reflections on Shimon Peres From ADL’s Israel Office

  • September 30, 2016

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Carole Nuriel
Director

Peres demonstrated “true leadership”

President Peres, was Israel’s political' "super-hero.”  So many times we asked ourselves about his seemingly unstoppable energy: "How does he do it? What is his secret?"

I got an answer to this question three years ago when ADL celebrated its centennial year and President Peres hosted a leadership delegation at his residence.  He came into the room, charming as usual, and stayed with us for more than an hour, despite a very busy schedule (as always).

Tireless and energetic, we learned what his secret was – hard work – be it in the time he invested in work or in the relationships he developed over the years.

But this was not all. He had this optimistic nature and belief in the human spirit, combined with an eternal aspiration for "tikun" (repair).  And, as such, he inspired so many people.  In my view, this is true leadership.

I will always remember President Peres as a "learner" – he was an intellectual who learned and knew so much, who always found interest in the people he met with.

In my mind, Shimon Peres will always be Israel’s Foreign Minister.   While he did not always enjoy a positive image in Israel (at least until he became President) there was something in his cosmopolitan personality that led people outside Israel to fall in love with him.  And thus, immediately, to fall in love with Israel.  He was so proud of the country and always represented it with a smile and honesty. It is enough to look at the list of foreign leaders who will be attending his funeral in Israel to understand the respect he enjoyed around the world.

RIP President Peres.

Rachel Kedar
Education Director

“…always optimistic, always looking forward to the next day…”

Many words have been, and will be written about Shimon Peres - the statesman, the man of vision, the man of action.

My one time meeting with Mr. Peres reflects a different point of the man: his work ethic and his personal touch.

Israel established full diplomatic relations with India in 1992 and Mr. Peres, who was at the time Israel’s Foreign Minister, came to India in 1993 on an official visit to New Delhi. It was a well-known fact, even at the time that Mr. Peres worked around the clock, and after a long day, he wanted to meet the staff of the embassy, which I was part of.  He did not have to, but he wanted to. And so despite the late hour, and the fact that he had already worked more than 14 hours, he met all the embassy staff and spouses, and asked us, one by one, personal questions. He truly wanted to hear about us, and from us.

Maybe that was his charm – his direct, easy going approach with the people. No wonder his charm was felt by the young Israelis of today. He wanted to be around them and “speak” their language. His genuine approach and ingenuity was mesmerizing for them and despite the age difference, he became one of them:  always optimistic, always looking forward to the next day. Even my 20 year-old daughter, who never met him adores him, and when I asked her why, she said: “well, apart from all he has done for Israel, it is Shimon, I don’t know.”

Well, that was Mr. Peres: He was Mr. Peres and Shimon, at the same time, but always one of a kind.

May he rest in peace.

Ari Bell
Middle Eastern Affairs Analyst

“…a relentless yet underappreciated pursuit of a better future for Israel…”

However well-respected he was worldwide, only in his later years did he become similarly popular among the majority of Israelis. In an interview from recent years, when he was already President, he said that he was used to hearing “no” throughout his entire political career, until he became President. Then, everything changed and he heard nothing but “yes.”

Gratitude came late for Peres, and he seemed to enjoy every minute of it, finally winning the people’s hearts.

This relentless yet underappreciated pursuit of a better future for Israel has by now become an integral part of his legacy.

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