The Last of Israel’s Founding Fathers, Shimon Peres, Dies

Shimon Peres, the former president and prime minister of Israel who suffered a massive stroke two weeks ago, died Wednesday morning. He was 93.

Israelis join Peres’ family in mourning the loss of a national father, describing his death as “losing the head of a family,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said.

“Israel is parting with a man who saw everything, who was involved in everything and who was behind everything,” Edelstein said in a statement. “Peres is the story of the Jewish people and of Israel. He was one of the giants of national leadership we have seen over the past century.”

It is now left to a new generation of Israelis to carry the nation into its next season.

While Peres was well respected, he led a controversial career, catering to left-wing causes and making peace deals that many believed were not in Israel’s best interests.

“But towards the end of his career he became a statesman, an official representative of the country and not a particular party,” a Messianic leader who asked not to be named told Kehila News Israel (KNI). “He was concerned with the welfare of the Israeli people.”

Israeli leaders, whether political foes or friends, commended Peres’ undeniable impact on the nation.

“There is not a chapter in the history of the State of Israel in which Shimon did not write or play a part,” President Reuven Rivlin said of his predecessor. “As one man he carried a whole nation on the wings of imagination, on the wings of vision. A man who was a symbol for the great spirit of this people. Shimon made us look far into the future, and we loved him. We loved him because he made us dare to imagine not what was once here, nor what is now, but what could be. This is a sad day for the Israeli people, and the State of Israel.”

Peres was well respected abroad. He worked with every American president since John F. Kennedy.

“I will miss Shimon Peres, my brilliant and eloquent friend. His life was a blessing to all who strive for peace,” former US President Bill Clinton tweeted.

World leaders are expected to attend the elder statesman’s funeral on Friday including US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and husband Bill, England’s Prince Charles, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto.

Peres was born in Poland and escaped to Palestine in the 1930s. His family members that remained in Poland died in the Holocaust.

In the 1940s Peres was involved in arms purchases for the Haganah and other reconnaissance work for the prescient state of Israel. Since the actual founding of the state, he has always held military or government positions.

“His most important achievement (in my view) was his key role in helping Israel to gain a nuclear deterrence in order to make much less likely the possibility of a second Holocaust of the Jewish people,” Mideast Media commentator Tom Gross wrote. “It is the nuclear deterrence that has helped allow Israel to take significant risks for peace in recent decades, moves that Peres was at the forefront of and for which he was awarded the Nobel peace prize.”

Peres was largely known outside of Israel for his efforts to bring peace between the Jewish state and her Arab neighbors.

“An ancient Greek philosopher was asked what is the difference between war and peace,” said Peres. “‘In war,’ he replied, ‘the old bury the young. In peace, the young bury the old.’ I felt that if I could make the world better for the young, that would be the greatest thing we can do.”

While he rode waves of popularity – and unpopularity – during his years in office, Peres ended on high note as a beloved figure after he stepped down from the presidency.

“For 60 years, I was the most controversial figure in the country, and suddenly I’m the most popular man in the land,” he once said. “Truth be told, I don’t know when I was happier, then or now.”

Peres won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his part in brokering the Oslo Accords.