After receiving a string of honors mainly when traveling abroad during his tenure as president, Shimon Peres is now receiving honors at home.

On Sunday, he received the B’nai B’rith Europe Lifetime Award of Merit, presented to him by B’nai B’rith Europe president Ralph Hoffman, who came from Frankfurt for the occasion, and at the opening plenary of the Board of Governors of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, he received the Ben-Gurion Leadership Award.

Of the many accolades he has received, few, if any, could mean more to Peres than one bearing his mentor’s name, David Ben-Gurion, of whom he continues to speak with admiration and affection. Recalling Ben-Gurion’s dream to make the Negev bloom, Peres said the Negev was the future horizon where the dream was just beginning to be realized. Peres designated the Negev as the center of peace and a place in which to dream.

“The land hasn’t blessed the people, the people have blessed the land. I believe we can teach that to our neighbors in the Middle East. All people in the Middle East can make their land blessed,” he said.

The Ben-Gurion award recognizes leaders who see the potential for growth and development in emerging ideas, or even before they do, and it’s those people who capture the moment and turn it into the future, said BGU president Rivka Carmi.

“Peres truly embodies the spirit of Ben-Gurion, whom we often quote as saying ‘if you want to be a realist you have to believe in miracles.’ Shimon Peres has always been a visionary dreamer who saw the potential before others did, for solar and renewable energy, water, nanotechnology, brain research and other subjects for which silence is still in order. He never let naysayers stop him from taking action when he believed in something,” she said.

The B’nai B’rith award is given to outstanding individuals who have dedicated at least 40 years of service to the well-being of the Jewish People and the State of Israel.

Peres was presented with a gold medal and a certificate that noted: “You are the face of Israel and of the Jewish People and you bring together the highest Jewish values of ethics, morality, tolerance, culture and the national unity of the Jewish People. The B’nai B’rith fraternity is also committed to these principles.”

In responding, Peres said every Jew deserves a medal of merit “because to be a Jew is to be committed to the spirit of humanity. It is not simple and it never was simple to be a Jew,” he said.

“A Jew today is a person who ensures his grandchildren are Jewish. That is what B’nai B’rith does, and it does it very well.”

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