Dear Friend of Israel
This week, all Israelis’ thoughts are on one of our most beloved public figures, the distinguished statesman – and my friend – Shimon Peres, whose political career has spanned almost the entire life of the modern Jewish state. Peres, who is 93 years old, recently suffered a major stroke. Though as of this writing his condition is showing signs of improvement, it remains very serious, and he is greatly in need of our prayers.
It is a measure of his love for his country that, even after his retirement in 2014, Peres continued to be actively engaged in shaping Israel for the future, an activity he has been involved in for his entire adult life. In his youth he worked on a kibbutz as a farmer and shepherd, but then a life of public service beckoned. He was elected Secretary of the Labor-Zionist youth movement when he was 20. Four years later he was conscripted into the Haganah (the precursor of the Israel Defense Forces), and was responsible for arms and manpower during Israel’s War of Independence. He also served as the head of Israel’s navy, Director of the Defense Ministry’s delegation in the U.S., and Director General of the Defense Ministry – and all of that was before he turned 30.
In 1959, Peres was elected to the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), where he held positions under 12 different cabinets, and served two terms as Prime Minister. He left the Knesset in 2007, when he was elected Israel’s ninth president, a position he held until his retirement in 2014. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, wrote 11 books, and was married to his wife Sonya for 66 years until her death in 2011. Together they had three children.
Peres has a healthy sense of humor. After his retirement, a video was circulated showing him packing up his presidential office, heading to the unemployment office, and trying out various jobs, such as gas station attendant, pizza delivery man, and grocery store cashier. Clearly, Peres knows that one of the secrets of maintaining a youthful outlook on life is having the ability to take yourself lightly, while taking your work seriously.
To say Peres is an inspiration is an understatement. The Bible speaks often of the importance of godly leaders, and holds those who step into leadership roles to a higher standard than the rest of us. God knows that these men and women have the ability to influence countless lives, and He holds those who would dare to do so accountable for this impact. Thankfully, Israel has been blessed over the years with many strong, godly leaders who have led the country and her people well.
I am grateful for the life of dedicated public servants like Shimon Peres, just as I am grateful for his strong support of The Fellowship‘s work through the years. And I am most grateful that the ultimate leader of Israel is God Himself. As a Jewish state, we have a unique combination of democracy and spirituality, of citizenship and faith. We hope and pray for wise leaders, but our ultimate fate rests in the hands of God. It is this that gives me the greatest hope for Israel’s future.
Today, along with all of Israel, and the world, I thank God for the life of Shimon Peres, salute his exemplary record of service to his country, and pray for his swift recovery. May he continue to bless our nation with his gifts and presence.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President