World leaders gathered in Jerusalem Friday morning to commemorate the late Shimon Peres who died on Wednesday of this week. United States President Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry all attended the funeral and gave eulogies. Numerous international heads of state and leaders were present, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Prime Minister Netanyahu gave his eulogy in which he spoke of Peres’s love and commitment to the State of Israel and the state’s love for Peres. He stated “The people of Israel deeply appreciate the honor you have shown Shimon and the state to which he dedicated his life. Shimon lived a life of purpose. He soared to incredible heights. He swept so many with his vison and his hope. He was a great man of Israel. He was a great man of the world. Israel grieves for him. The world grieves for him. But we find hope in his legacy, as does the world.
He went on to state, “Shimon Peres not only led a long life, but a meaningful life. He played an active role as a senior partner in the national rebirth of the Jewish people. He belonged to the generation that emerged from bondage to liberty, that struck roots in our ancient homeland, and wielded the Sword of David in its defense. Shimon made a monumental contribution to guaranteeing our capacity to defend ourselves for generations. And for that he will have the gratitude of generations. At the same time, he made every effort throughout his adult life to achieve piece with our neighbors.”
Addressing the peace process and conflicts of past, he stated “In a turbulent Middle East in which only the strong survive, peace will not be achieved other than by permanently preserving our power. But power is not an end in itself. It’s a means to an end. That goal is to ensure our national existence and co-existence. To promote progress, prosperity and peace – for us, for the nations of the region, and for our Palestinian neighbors.”
President Obama traveled from the United States to Jerusalem to attend and speak at the funeral. Obama opened his eulogy by stating “A free life, in a homeland regained. A secure life, in a nation that can defend itself, by itself. A full life, in friendship with nations who can be counted on as allies, always. A bountiful life, driven by simple pleasures of family and by big dreams. This was Shimon Peres’s life. This is the State of Israel. This is the story of the Jewish people over the last century, and it was made possible by a founding generation that counts Shimon as one of its own. Shimon once said, ‘The message of the Jewish people to mankind is that faith and moral vision can triumph over all adversity.’ For Shimon, that moral vision was rooted in an honest reckoning of the world as it is.”
Obama spoke of Peres’s long life and contributions to the state of Israel, stating “Shimon was probably remembered more for a peace process that never reached its endpoint…” in reference to Peres’s involvement in the Oslo Accords and on.
Obama also took the opportunity to speak of the peace process with the Palestinians, mentioning Abbas’s presence at the funeral, stating “President Abbas, whose presence here is a gesture and a reminder of the unfinished business of peace,” later stating, “Out of the hardships of the diaspora he found room in his heart for others who suffered. He came to hate prejudice with the passion of one who knows how it feels to be its target. Even in the face of terrorist attacks, even after repeated disappointments at the negotiation table, he insisted that as human beings, Palestinians must be seen as equal in dignity to Jews, and must therefore be equal in self-determination. Because of his sense of justice, his analysis of Israel’s security, his understanding of Israel’s meaning, he believed that the Zionist idea would be best protected when Palestinians, too, had a state of their own.”
On US-Israel relations, he stated “As Americans and Israelis, we often talk about the unbreakable bonds between our nations. And, yes, these bonds encompass common interests- vital cooperation that makes both our nations more secure. But today we are reminded that the bonds which matter most run deeper. Anchored in a Judeo-Christian tradition, we believe in the irreducible value of every human being. Our nations were built on that idea. They were built in large part by stubborn idealists and striving immigrants, including those who had fled war and fled oppression. Both our nations have flaws that we have not always fixed, corners of our history which date back to our founding that we do not always squarely address. But because our founders planted not just flags in the eternal soil, but also planted the seeds of democracy, we have the ability to always pursue a better world. We have the capacity to do what is right.”
Obama ended his eulogy stating, “The last of the founding generation is now gone. Shimon accomplished enough things in his life for a thousand men. But he understood that it is better to live to the very end of his time on Earth with a longing not for the past but for the dreams that have not yet come true — an Israel that is secure in a just and lasting peace with its neighbors. And so now this work is in the hand of Israel’s next generation, in the hands of Israel’s next generation and its friends. Like Joshua, we feel the weight of responsibility that Shimon seemed to wear so lightly. But we draw strength from his example and the fact that he believed in us- even when we doubted ourselves. Scripture tells us that before his death, Moses said, ‘I call upon heaven and earth to bear witness this day that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.’ “Uvacharta Bachayim.” Choose life. For Shimon, let us choose life, as he always did. Let us make his work our own. May God bless his memory. And may God bless this country, and this world, that he loved so dearly.”
Peres was laid to rest following the national ceremony and was buried at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem in the “Great Leaders of the Nation” section next to Yitzchak Rabin.
This article originally appeared on Behold Israel, September 30, 2016, and reposted with permission.