I would like to begin with my thanks to the JFNA.
Thank you to Richard Sandler – the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the JFNA;
Cynthia and David Shapira – the GA Co-Chairs;
Jerry Silverman – President and CEO of the JFNA.
Thank you for this tribute to my father, for your friendship and support – they serve as a pillar of strength during this time of sadness.
“Count the number of achievements in your life” – my father used to say – “and compare them to the number of dreams in your head. If you have more dreams than achievements, then you know that you are still young”.
And indeed, my father was a dreamer – a man of great vision and optimism – always looking to the future, envisioning a better tomorrow, and working hard to bring it to fruition.
Shimon Peres was one of the founding fathers of Israel, instrumental in developing its defense and security industry. He worked tirelessly to promote peace, and was at the forefront of transforming Israel into a global leader in innovation, acting as the father of the “Start up Nation”.
He was forever young, with 70 years of service to Israel under his belt. A constant pupil who always explored, as well as a once in a generation statesman with the knowledge to school world leaders. He wasn’t afraid to dream, but was as pragmatic as can be, always in the here and now, working hard for the benefit of us all. And though he was 93, he left us too soon. Upon his passing we were moved beyond words from the outpouring of support we received.
The reverence shown to him by the United States was especially moving, with condolences received from Jewish communities across the US, President Obama’s tribute of lowering American flags around the world to half mast, as well as the powerful eulogies of Presidents Obama and Clinton at the state funeral.
President Elect Trump sent heartfelt messages to us saying that my father was “the last of a generation of leaders who fought for the right of the Jewish people to shape their own destiny, and his legacy stands tall”.
My father was proud to tell the story of Israel – a story of a dream come true, realized by people who built their future with their own hands. They built a nation through innovation and entrepreneurship, and impacted not only our lives in Israel, but also those of millions around the world.
He told us about Israel of the early days: “There were swamps in the north and deserts in the south. Two lakes – one dead, and the other dying – and the Jordan River, with more fame than water. A holy country surrounded by oily countries. We had only one unique resource – our people”.
His belief in people and their ability to be positive agents of change is what led him to establish the Peres Center for Peace 20 years ago.
The Peres Center, where innovation and optimism come together to promote prosperity and peace; where meaningful projects are developed and implemented – is where Peres’ legacy lies.
Looking forward, as he would do, we will continue to innovate. In parallel to the Peres Center’s important projects in the fields of peace education, medicine, healthcare, business, and the environment – we remember his words: “the new world of science and knowledge calls you to forget the partitions; to forget the prejudices; to embark with courage, hope and knowledge, and bring us to a new era of hope and peace.”
In this new era, he believed – for the first time in history scientific and technological advancements are becoming more important than natural resources. But he noted: technology without morals can be dangerous, just as morals without scientific advancement may lead us to poverty.
And indeed, last July, together with President Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu, my father launched his flagship initiative – the National Israeli Innovation Center.
The Israeli Innovation Center will tell the remarkable story of Israel, the “Innovation Nation,” from Cherry Tomatoes and Drip Irrigation to Waze and Mobileye. It will highlight the global human impact of Israel’s achievements, and explore how to expand the “Start-up Nation” into the “Start-up Region” – building bridges for peace and prosperity.
World leaders will be invited to learn about Israeli breakthroughs, professionals will be able to connect to the local start-up ecosystem, and youngsters from all backgrounds and religions will be able to reveal the techie, entrepreneur, and peacebuilder within themselves.
The Israeli Innovation Center will be a gem in the Israeli landscape, acting as a beacon of innovation and hope. It will be a place of pride about what we have achieved as a nation, and the Tikun Olam born out of Israeli creativity. A road to a new era.
With the sadness we carry, we know: the important work of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation will continue to make a difference – our message echoing across the globe.
To do so, and to honor the legacy of Shimon Peres, we invite you to join hands with us on this important path of promoting innovation, prosperity, and peace for the benefit of us all.
This partnership between us – between Israel and the United States – was always of the highest importance to my father. He, who worked with 11 Presidents, saw America as a nation who rose to greatness by giving and not by taking, and whose support of Israel is unparalleled.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge President Obama’s two terms in office, which were filled with inspiration and support of Israel. His friendship with my father, the honor bestowed upon Israel when he awarded President Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and his support when my father passed away – show the close bond he shares with Israel and its people.
I would also like to thank Secretary Clinton for being a close friend to my father and staunch supporter of Israel.
Importantly, I would like to wish President Elect Trump the best of luck. When President Kennedy was elected, he asked David Ben Gurion for advice: “What should I do to be a good President for Israel?” Ben Gurion replied without hesitation: “Be a great President for the United States”. I am sure President Elect Trump will maintain the unbreakable link between Israel and the US, at the core of which are the unwavering support of Israel’s security, and the forever extended hand for peace.
Within this unique relationship between our two nations, lies the powerful bond between American Jews and the State of Israel. President Peres saw Israel not only as the home of all Israelis, but of the Jewish people collectively. After 2000 years of longing for our homeland, Israel today is the beating heart for all Jews, from all backgrounds.
My father saw the relationship between Israel and American Jewry as a union based on a powerful belief in the core values of our prophets and their moral calling for Tikun Olam. He greatly admired the important work of Federations in making Jewish life possible and accessible to everyone everywhere, as well as their crucial role in the establishment of the State of Israel, and in ensuring its prosperity today.
I am privileged to walk in my father’s path, carrying on in the mission to realize his vision and honor his legacy.
As I am a strong believer in the power of dreaming, I would like to leave you with a final quote from Shimon Peres:
“Israel exceeded all our dreams. Looking back, I only regret that our dreams were not greater. Let’s look ahead, let’s dream big, and make the world a peaceful place, for all people, for every person”.