It’s time for a female president

Perhaps it’s time that we too turn a new leaf and select the first-ever (elected) female president of Israel: Miriam Peretz.

Miriam Peretz speaks at the annual International Municipal Innovation Conference in Tel Aviv, earlier this year.  (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
Miriam Peretz speaks at the annual International Municipal Innovation Conference in Tel Aviv, earlier this year.
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
In the aftermath of the US election, much has been said about the future of the US-Israel relationship, the state of civil discourse in the United States, Trump’s refusal to concede and a host of other issues. But all of this is taking away from perhaps the highlight of this election – the remarkable achievement of Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, who not only became the first-ever woman to hold the position, but the first woman of color to do so. It’s time for Israel to take a similar step, but for our next president.
With the exceptionally fragile race relations today, and the rich history of racism in the United States, what better way to turn a new page than with a female vice president. As we see Israel deal with turbulent protests, failure from our political leaders, and an economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps it’s time that we too turn a new leaf and select the first-ever (elected) female president of Israel: Miriam Peretz.
Peretz is the living embodiment of sacrifice and perseverance, and has a keen understanding of what it means to be Israeli from across sectors. Peretz was born in Casablanca where she lived until age 10, when her family moved to Israel. She married, and moved to Egypt for her husband’s work, where she had two sons. The Peretz family returned to Israel and in 1988, the first tragedy befell Miriam. Her son Uriel, a Golani soldier, was killed in Lebanon. But instead of letting the pain destroy her, she returned to school to get a master’s degree in educational administration and began speaking about her son publicly on military bases and in schools, while also working as an educator.
“My husband was overcome with sadness and wouldn’t go to work, but I had no choice but to continue functioning,” she said.
As Miriam continued to process her loss by helping her community cope with grief, more tragedy struck her family. She lost her husband in 2005; he passed away at the age of only 56. Then in 2010 her son Eliraz, also a Golani soldier, was also killed in battle in the Gaza Strip. Incredibly, Miriam rose up from despair in a way that few individuals could, motivated by a profound and pure love for the land of Israel, and continued giving to her community, even speaking to groups abroad about her loss and spreading a message of hope and unity against all odds.
In 2014, she was one of the torchbearers for Israel’s official Independence Day ceremony, and in 2018, she was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for lifetime achievement in a ceremony in which she inspired the entire nation with her speech:
“I have a heart that was broken three times with terrible announcements: The loss of my eldest son Uriel in battle in Lebanon, the death of my partner Eliezer due to a broken heart, and the loss of my second son in battle in Gaza,” she stated.
“With that heart I came to my nation and in simple words, in the language of a broken heart, I spoke of this land and its legacy, of choosing goodness, of happiness, of devotion to life, of responsibility, of social involvement, and out of that heart which beats with faith in this country and this nation, out of the great depth of pain flowed springs of love.”
This coming summer, the Knesset will choose a new president for a seven-year term following the completion of President Reuven Rivlin’s term. While there are certainly other candidates likely to obtain significant support for the Knesset, such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself, Isaac Herzog, and other accomplished politicians, no other candidate embodies the spirit of Israel and has already captured the heart of the people quite like Miriam Peretz.
Through her unmatched strength, she inspires the entire nation – people of all backgrounds - and reminds us of what it means to be Israeli: Both the high price we have paid as a nation for the Jewish state, but also how we must not be hardened by suffering.
“When the heart is full of faith, it can withstand great challenges,” she stated. Her courage and optimism teach us all to continue looking forward, and fighting for a better future, a better Israel.
Though she has not officially announced a run for president, initial polls have shown 50% of the public supports Peretz for president, more than double the support for current Prime Minister Netanyahu, or Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz. Another poll shows 44% of the Israeli public wants to see Miriam Peretz as the next Israeli president. In these turbulent times, what a joy it would be to see a citizen of Israel, a true leader of Israel instead of a politician, someone who unites rather than divides – take this office. It’s time for Israel’s Knesset to elect the first female president, Miriam Peretz.
(Dalia Itzik served as interim president of Israel from January to July 2007 and was the only woman to serve in the position, but she was not elected by the Knesset.)
The writer is the CEO of Social Lite Creative.