On this date in 1977, Shimon Peres became the 8th Prime Minister of Israel. As Shmuel Rosner wrote in this New York Times article, “Mr. Peres began his life in Vishneva, a village on the border of modern-day Poland and Belarus. When he left for Palestine in 1934, under his original name, Shimon Persky, his grandfather told him, ‘Be a Jew, forever!’ The grandfather, along with much of his family, perished in the Holocaust.”
Here’s a five-minute video produced by the phenomenal Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Tel Aviv about Shimon Peres’ life and contributions to Israel and to peace:
How did Peres understand his grandfather’s exhortation? Entire books are devoted to this. But upon reading Peres’ Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, here are some pertinent and moving excerpts:
In history, Judaism has been far more successful than the Jews themselves. The Jewish people remained small but the spirit of Jerusalem went from strength to strength. The Bible is to be found in hundreds of millions of homes. The moral majesty of the Book of Books has been undefeated by the vicissitudes of history.
Moreover, time and again, history has succumbed to the Bible’s immortal ideas. The message that the one, invisible God created Man in His image, and hence there are no higher and lower orders of man, has fused with the realization that morality is the highest form of wisdom and, perhaps, of beauty and courage too.
Slings, arrows and gas chambers can annihilate man, but cannot destroy human values, dignity, and freedom. […]
The message of the Jewish people to mankind is that faith and moral vision can triumph over all adversity.
Be sure to check out the full speech for Peres’ hopes and vision for the broader Middle East.