One of the more moving images to come out of the Gaza flotilla backlash in June was the video of a lone 16- year-old boy, wearing an IDF T-shirt and raising a flag above his head, facing off with a mob of angry, anti-Israel protesters in front of the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles.
The interaction was captured on video and went viral on YouTube, catapulting Elad Daniel Pereg into the limelight of the Jewish world.
Suddenly he was in demand as a speaker to youth groups, at synagogues
and at an Israeli Consulate event, a modern Daniel who entered a lion’s
den of hate and anger.
“If no one else was going to stand up for Israel, I was going to be there,” he told The Jerusalem Post
The YouTube video shows Pereg standing behind a line of policemen,
waving an Israeli flag as protesters hurl insults at him: “Put your flag
down! You are killing my people!” and “Shame on Israel!” “I knew what I
was doing,” said Pereg, who on May 31, outside the consulate, was
surrounded by hundreds of protesters as soon as he showed up. He
immediately obeyed police requests to stand off to the side in an
alleyway after they told him they could no longer protect him if he was
in the crowd.
“I could feel the tension, but I was calm. I didn’t yell – there was no point,” he said.
After a summer of soulsearching, Pereg decided to start the new Jewish
year, and his new life, in Jerusalem. He didn’t care that many people
recommended he wait two years to finish high school in the States, or
that the lastminute decision meant that he and his mother had no
apartment lined up and no plans for the new school year when they
arrived earlier this month.
“I love it here so much, it’s really my country,” Pereg said. “This is
the place I belong. Now I’m trying to see how I can make it.”
The teenager displays a maturity that few his age possess. He knows
exactly what he wants: to spend the next two years as a spokesman for
Israel and a staunch defender of the Jewish nation, serve in an
intelligence unit in the army, and eventually become a member of
Knesset. He has business cards that read, “Future Knesset Member – Look
for me on Facebook.”
“The aftermath of this video was that it got me a lot of attention,” he said.
“But it also got me a lot of connections with politicians, pro-Israel
advocates, people that could connect me to future activism and future
goals, future things for Israel and things to benefit the Jewish people.
“I think it helped the pro-Israel cause a lot,” he added. “It was
inspiring, and it helped people to know there are Jews who go out of
their way to help the Jewish people.”
Pereg said that immediately after the protest, whenever he went to the
primarily Jewish parts of Los Angeles, he was recognized and treated
like a celebrity.
“In LA, people asked me, ‘What’s your message?’ And I said, ‘There’s one main thing: You should make aliya,’” Pereg said.
“Personally, coming here at the time I came, and the situation I’m in,
it’s very hard. That doesn’t mean Israel isn’t the home of every Jew. It
just means for me, there’s a difficult situation. But I should be here
and I’m going to make it here.”
Pereg was born in Israel but left at age two. He went to public schools
in Los Angeles and his family was involved in the Persian Jewish
community. Pereg and his mother speak Farsi at home.
Because of his status as a katin hozer – a returning minor – Pereg says
he is falling through the cracks and hasn’t been able to get the help he
needed from aliya organizations and the state.
He and his mother are still looking for a place to live and a high school for him to attend.
“We’re happy to sit with him and figure out the best path for him to
maximize what he can get because that will benefit everyone,” said
Renana Levine, spokeswoman for the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliya organization.
She said that 16 was “a problematic age for the Ministry of the
Interior” in terms of determining rights, but that the organization
would be happy to help guide him through the process.
Pereg and his mother have been helped by the Michael Levin Lone Soldier
Center, whose volunteers have organized places for the Peregs to stay
during their first weeks in the country and have set up meetings with
various groups. The core group of volunteers at the center had received a
Facebook message that the lone activist from the video wanted to come
to Israel but didn’t know what to do, and they jumped at the opportunity
MK Arye Eldad (National Union) has helped the Peregs search for a school.
The holiday season is an especially meaningful time for Pereg to start his life in Israel, he said.
“Rosh Hashana is coming up, and it’s a time people look back on their
year and think about the year ahead. A lot of people don’t realize what
they have in Israel... Only when coming from [America] do you realize
how special Israel really is.”