President Peres with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
(photo credit: GPO)
As has been his custom for several years, President Shimon Peres on Wednesday
paid Pessah visits with Shas spiritual mentor and former Sephardi chief rabbi
Ovadia Yosef and with the current Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona
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Peres makes a point of visiting Yosef and the chief rabbis
during the High Holy Day season as well.
Peres has a special rapport with
Yosef, whom he has known for many years. Their conversations have a certain
intimacy that does not quite carry over to meetings that Peres has with other
The extent of their familiarity is such that they
embrace whenever they meet, and Peres has frequently received one of the mild
face slaps that is a sign of Yosef’s affection.
Yosef, who was first on
the president’s list of calls, bestowed a warm blessing on his guest, the gist
of which was: “You are loved above [in heaven] and are pleasant below [on
earth]. I wish the president success in his role and bless all the people of
Israel on this festival of Pessah.”
Peres updated Yosef on his meetings
with US President Barack Obama, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the upper
echelons of the US administration. The two men also discussed various
developments in the Middle East.
Peres requested the assistance of all
three rabbis in advancing peace and stability in the region and declared: “The
rabbis have a significant and decisive part to play in the quest for peace. We
must not allow the Israeli- Palestinian conflict to become the flag of hatred
for Israel of the entire Arab world.”
Peres added that this Pessah was
different from others because this year the Egyptians themselves were attempting
to exit the house of bondage.
Notwithstanding anti-Israel demonstrations
by some of Egypt’s freedom-seekers, the ever-optimistic Peres wished the
Egyptians well and voiced the hope that they would emerge from the hunger, shame
and want that for so long have been part of their reality.
Both Yosef and
Peres expressed a wish for peace and unity among the Jewish people.
visiting the home of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Peres thanked him for his
efforts to find a viable halachic solution to the problem of IDF conversions.
“The stand you have taken and the endeavors you have made have been of great
help to these soldiers who risk their lives in the defense of Israel,” Peres
The president praised Amar, telling him that what he did could be
considered one of the most important measures taken in Israel over the past
“You have conveyed a positive spirit to our people, and I ask your
blessing and your help for progress toward peace.”
Amar was equally
flattering and told Peres that as president he was the symbol of beauty and
refinement in his appearances throughout the world and in his conversations with
“This is the way to show the beautiful face of Israel,”
He reminded Peres that observant Jews pray for peace three
times a day, and before reciting the prayer, each person takes three steps
backward in the realization that something has to be ceded in order to achieve a
greater good. He also explained that sometimes the three steps backward are
taken in order to ascend to greater heights when moving forward – in other
words, to make progress.
“We pray to our Creator that there should be
peace in the world and peace among our people,” Amar said.
At his meeting
with Metzger, Peres discussed ways to advance peace and stability in the region,
but also talked about ways to strengthen the nation in terms of mutual respect
and moral commitment.
Metzger, in addition to being the country’s
Ashkenazi chief rabbi, is the unofficial “foreign minister” of the Chief
Rabbinate and, in addition to his frequent travels throughout the country, he
also travels abroad to international seminars and Jewish communities.
has been in close touch with the Schalit family and has joined them in their
protest tent for prayers. He has also been very outspoken about Jonathan
Pollard, and in a radio broadcast on the eve of Pessah urged Israeli families to
invite the poor, the needy and the lonely to their Seder tables because food
collections and distributions by charitable organizations were not commensurate
with demand, and no Jew should have to spend Seder night alone.
had an extraordinarily varied few days. On the night before Pessah he was the
guest of honor at a reception hosted by the Council for the Promotion of
Israel-China relations. On Monday morning he visited the Schalits. On Wednesday
he visited the rabbis in the morning, and in the evening, as he does every year,
he was scheduled to open the Ein Gev Festival, a marathon of community singing
that attracts thousands from all over the country.