On Thursday, foreign and Israeli figures gathered at Mount Herzl for the first official state memorial for the late President Shimon Peres, who died one year ago. Speakers at the ceremony included former British Prime Minister Tony Blair President Reuven Rivlin, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and members of the Peres family.
Blair praised the late President Shimon Peres Thursday, saying Peres “drew upon the best of the Jewish character” in order to build a country that would be a “gift to the world.”
Blair cited Peres’ connection to Jewish history – “sustained through pogroms, persecution and holocaust, often battered but never subdued” – and said the former president, prime minister and defense minister was animated by a vision of creating a better world.
“He never gave up on peace with the Palestinians or on his belief that peace was best secured by an independent state of Palestine alongside a recognized state of Israel,” Blair said. “One of our last conversations was on how to change the plight of the people of Gaza.”
“He grasped completely the extraordinary potential there would be if Israel and the region were working together, not simply on security, but on economic advance, technological breakthrough and cultural reconciliation,” Blair added.
President Rivlin, who as a member of the right-wing Likud party was a long-term political rival of Peres, a member of the Labor faction, praised his predecessor as an inspiration to the current generation of Israelis.
“You have left us much more to do, but the path you paved, the dream you spoke of, and most of all, your determination and faith, will be with this people for generations to come, and you will continue to be an advocate of all of us,” Rivlin said.
Peres’ son Chemi, who serves as chairman of the board of the Peres Center, said that his father struggled “all of his life with his tremendous love for the State of Israel,” but lamented the fact that the elder Peres never saw his dream of peace realized.
“While he fought to build the nuclear bomb in Dimona, he also fought against mountains and demons to make the impossible possible. It took courage to dream, and even more courage to achieve the dream and to see it become reality…I ask, in the spirit of my father, that you don’t stop dreaming and daring, because it’s the best thing that could happen to our beloved country,” Peres said.