Peres comes to SA with message of hope and inspiration

  • Peres
Ninety-two-year old Shimon Peres is a living legend, and Johannesburg Jewry thronged to hear him speak at the Sandton Convention Centre on Sunday night. Peres was twice Israeli Prime Minister (1984-1986 and 1995-1996), President (2007-2014) and a Nobel Peace Prize winner (1994). In this picture by Ilan Ossendryver, Peres sits with Israeli Ambassador to SA Arthur Lenk. Ossendryver, who is Jewish Report's official photographer, once served in the same capacity for Shimon Peres himself!
by STEVEN GRUZD | Mar 02, 2016

Photographer Ilan Ossendryver

His political career spans seven decades, as far back as being present at Israel’s Declaration of Independence in May 1948. And it is testament to the importance accorded to South Africa that he accepted the invitation of the IAU-UCF to bring his message of hope in person at his age.

Peres was interviewed, seated in an armchair, by journalist Paula Slier. He related anecdotes about washing dishes with Jordan’s King Hussein, mused about Moses, and shared his personal memories of David Ben-Gurion: “A man ready to make compromises, who said Israel needs a moral base, or else there is no future.”

When asked about Israel’s growing international isolation, he said this tiny country introduced modern agriculture to China. “Having 1,2 billion friends is not so bad, is it?” he quipped, adding India’s billion too. He lauded improved relations with the Catholic Church under Pope Francis.

He said those so-called “scholars” demonising Israel had “gaps in their ignorance”. He dismissed any comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa, saying: “There is no single word in our law that discriminates… Racism is a crime in Israel.”

When asked whether Israel would ever achieve peace with the Palestinians, Peres recalled that cynics had said peace with Arabs was impossible, yet Israel has long-standing peace treaties with both Egypt and Jordan.

And if peace is not reached soon, asked Slier? “We will reach it later,” Peres replied. “What’s the alternative? To kill each other?” He said negotiations had stalled due to the split in Palestinian leadership.

Peres spoke of the future. He urged young people not to waste their time and their talents, and of the potential that science and technology have for overcoming poverty and ignorance that breeds extremism.

He had a special message for South Africans. He spoke warmly about his friend Nelson Mandela and his magnanimity. “In all South Africans,” he said, “you will find a small Nelson Mandela,” urging us to be inspired, positive and forgiving. “I believe in the future of South Africa, more than many South Africans… Israel succeeded, in spite of our smallness.” He spoke of how South Africa should learn from Israel that inspired people can achieve anything.

Peres’ final words resonated with the audience of 1 500. “Be optimistic. There are so many pessimistic people. We all pass away in the same way. So rather be an optimist… Make the world a better place. Be a better person.”

Businessman Ivor Ichikowitz, who was instrumental in making the trip happen, summed it up: “This visit to South Africa could not have come at a more appropriate time. When the world is in such turmoil… when we South Africans think we have an exclusive mandate on tsuris, this talk has had an inspirational effect on the entire Jewish community. South Africa needs to hear that Israel faced its challenges by realising the value of human capital… Peres is a man of huge optimism – we can only be inspired.”

1 Comment

  1. 1 Choni 04 Mar
    There has never been a politician in Israel who has failed to protect the lives of hundreds of men woman and children as Shimon Peres.
    His preference to be politically correct and his antagonism to be biblically correct has cost the lives and maiming of thousands.


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