If there was a Mount Rushmore in Israel, surely the late Shimon Peres’s sculpted image would be on it. The very minutes after his September 28 death due to a stroke were the State of Israel’s first without him.
He was admired as a defender of Israel and the Jewish people, and as a man whose vision included finding a way toward a peaceful solution in the Middle East. While many in our community opposed it, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Peres would never see the ultimate peace he challenged Israeli, Palestinian and leaders across the world to achieve. It was many of those leaders with whom he interacted who ultimately came to be part of the 4,000 mourners who gathered Friday at Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem.
President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton were among those to deliver eulogies. In the audience were dozens of world leaders including President Francois Hollande of France, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, Prince Charles and former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain.
Israeli politicians from across the spectrum were also present.
Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was present and shook the hand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also delivered a eulogy.
Peres worked with U.S. presidents all the way back to John F. Kennedy. It was no wonder that President Obama ordered U.S. flags flown at half-mast in the United States and at all embassies and military installations worldwide.
“No one did more over so many years as Shimon Peres to build the alliance between our two countries,” said the President in his eulogy.
All the President had to do was look around at the heads of state from many nations, officials from Arab countries and Israeli political leaders who came together to memorialize his late friend. Of course, Israeli Arab MKs as well as heads of state from key Arab countries chose not to attend. And therein is the clear symbol of the unfinished business Peres leaves behind for the world to solve.
But those who were there understood correctly that Shimon Peres, whom Obama thanked for his friendship and leadership, was a man of regional and world peace.
They came from all over to honor such a man. There are so few like Peres left in this world who have the power to bring friends and, yes, even enemies together.
The impact of his passing is real.