President Reuven Rivlin attended the state ceremony on Mount Herzl on Thursday to mark the first anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Shimon Peres.
Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, whose friendship with Peres spanned well over half a century, was also at the graveside state ceremony, as were former British prime minister Tony Blair and Monaco Minister of State and head of government Serge Telle, along with members of the Peres family.
There were also members of the judiciary, past and present members of Knesset and former and current cabinet ministers, a delegation from the Druse community, a large representation of the diplomatic corps and children from schools that have been named for Peres. There were also survivors of the 1976 Entebbe rescue mission, members of Four Mothers for Peace, people from various other organizations and business enterprises, a representation of the old guard of the Labor Party and simply ordinary people who felt they ought to be there.
Blair, who was the last speaker after Rivlin and Chemi Peres, began his address by saying: “We miss him don’t we. I know I do.”
He said that he missed the sense of anticipation before his meetings with Peres, the insights, the wit, the brilliant one-liners and the wisdom of Peres, who he said had the supreme ability to take complex economic, political and technical works and translate them into words that could be understood.
Inasmuch as Peres was a man of vision, Blair underscored that he was also a man of action. Blair cited Israel’s nuclear reactor as an example.
Having read the autobiography that Peres wrote only weeks before his death, Blair said that the chapter on the nuclear reactor “reads like a passage from a thriller.”
Relating to Peres’s thirst for knowledge and the knowledge that he wanted others to have, Blair said that Peres wanted to increase the sum of knowledge and understanding as a path to progress.
He also emphasized that Peres never gave up on peace with the Palestinians and an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.
In his last years, Peres could see the situation changing, said Blair, and grasped completely the potential of security, economic advancement technological breakthroughs and cultural reconciliation.
“He was fascinated by the future and was younger in mind at 90 than most people at 30.”
Blair said that he had once given himself the exercise of trying to define Peres in three words and had come up with “compassionate, courageous and creative,” adding that if he had to reduce it to one, it would be compassionate.
“Shimon would defend Israel to his dying breath, but he was also a citizen of the world,” said Blair, adding that he “embodied the hope and success of a nation and in doing so touched and educated a wider world.”
Blair concluded his remarks in Hebrew, saying, “May his memory be blessed.”
Rivlin, relating to Peres’s attitude to disappointment or defeat, said that he always sought and found new paths toward a breakthrough, and always remained conscious of his grandfather’s last words to him, to remain a Jew.
Speaking directly to Shimon Peres, Rivlin said: “There is no Israeli who does not owe you a debt for national security. You always had to struggle, but you had faith in yourself and in your mission. Even those who did not agree with you are sad without you.”
Chemi Peres, who chairs the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Jaffa, said: “My father struggled all of his life with his tremendous love for the State of Israel. While he fought to build the nuclear reactor in Dimona, he also fought against mountains and demons and objectors to make the impossible possible.
It took courage to dream, and even more courage to achieve the dream and to see it become reality. His biggest dream – peace – my father did not get to see.”