Press Release

IDI Leadership Reacts to Passing of Shimon Peres

Yohanan Plesner, IDI President:

Shimon Peres was a model for practical leadership and a source of inspiration. For some, the ability to dream and articulate a vision and the ability to carry out that vision is a contradiction. Not for Peres. His worldview and his life's work fed each other.

When Peres ran for president in 2007, I was part of a small team that worked to get him elected. It was then that I saw with my own eyes this combination of a man who looks with a bird’s eye view at reality, and yet has his legs firmly planted on the ground in practical politics. I learned that in a strong democracy these two stances co-exist. There is no leadership, policy making and vision without the ability to go down to the smallest details of practical politics in order to enable implementation.

In this way, Peres became one of Israel’s pillars of Zionism and democracy; he is responsible for some of the state’s incredible achievements.

When I was sworn into the Knesset in 2007, Peres told me, “Enter public life and do not leave it. A man who is worthy is obligated to serve the nation.”

This is a central component of his will: The obligation to continue to act with strength in order to preserve the vision of the founding generation and to renew the momentum of Zionist work in the spirit of democracy and Judaism – the same spirit that emanated from Shimon Peres. It is to these ideals that IDI is likewise obligated.

May his memory be a blessing.

Professor Mordechai Kremnizter, Vice President, Research:

During a lecture that I delivered in 1988 on law and politics in memory of the late Haggai Eshed, I expressed deep objection to the government’s handling of the Buss 300 affair erupted. Shimon Peres, who was one of the objects of criticism, was present.

I was amazed by his ability to take and internalize this criticism. This is a very rare feature. Many pretend they want and value constructive criticism, but this is rarely the truth. You could say that this is one of the major differences between politicians and statesmen.

About a year ago, I heard Peres present on the topic of informal education. He was totally prepared and up-to-date on the latest research, technology, educational philosophy and policies. In his usual way, he was forward-thinking, weaving his vision of a better future into his talk, all the while his ideas anchored in reality.

He demonstrated a love for mankind, showed concern about the State and mainly unbridled faith in man and the State of Israel.

May his memory be a blessing.

Professor Yedidia Stern, Vice President, Research:

We experience a disconnect between the Jewish nation in our generation and its written tradition, authored by the sages of previous generations. This divide derives as a result of language and cultural gaps, because the bookshelf of Jewish works is associated with one group (“the religious”), and as a result of the fear that behind the desire to connect the modern Jew with these traditional works is an underlying goal of religious evangelism.

When Shimon Peres, z”l, was appointed president, I sought his advice how to deal with this grave challenge. Indeed, the man over the last dozens of years was always thinking about modernity, about tomorrow. Yet, he understood that a better future was not only contingent on what we do in the present, but also on our connection to the past. Without the past, Peres said, we are a nation without a future.

Through fascinating conversations that we had in the first years of his presidency, Peres revealed not only great interest, but also a deep understanding of the importance of Jewish tradition to the state of Israel.

Shimon Peres the politician, a man of practice and implementation, was likewise deeply spiritual. Peres the Universalist and the technologist, was likewise well grounded in his Jewish identity and saw it as a source of national strength that was deserving of investment and development.

Together, we considered the possibility of creating a “collective index” of the “Jewish bookshelf, “which would enable every person to draw from these works the wisdom of previous generations based on that which was of interest and relevance to him/her – and, of course, all within the context of a pluralism of ideas.

Peres believed that the future of our Jewish identity was contingent on the ability for every Jew to see himself as a part of the Jewish story and to be able to articulate this in his/her own voice.

May his memory be a blessing.