The Last of the Greats

The last giant of the founding of Israel has left us and now we are alone. With him dies an era of adventure and rebirth for the Jewish people, with him dies an age of dreams, of visions and of Hebrew prophets. Peres goes on his way to join the other giants of his time and his name surely ranks among the likes of Jabotinsky, Ben Gurion, Yigal Allon, Moshe Dayan, Abba Eban and Golda Meir. Of Pinsker, Ahad Ha’am, Rav Kook and a whole legion of giants now long gone.

Our link to those special Jews is now banished from living memory and resigned to the history books.

Now he lies in state and the flag flies at half mast the last of a generation that achieved the impossible heads on his way leaving us mere mortals to find a way to continue on our own. And on our own we continue with a nuclear country, a country at peace with two neighbours, a country with the most powerful military and economy in the region. Some of this we can place directly at the door of Peres others indirectly. Let us not forget that this man who now lies at peace was involved in every major challenge the country faced since its inception.

Peres is most respected around the world for the work that led to his receipt of the Nobel Prize for Peace, he is most respected in Israel for his work ensuring Israel’s nuclear capability which almost certainly resulted in Israel obtaining weapons of mass destruction. That quirk says rather a lot about Israel and probably rather a lot about everyone else too. That the same man did both says even more about him. Giving Israel the capacity to set the world ablaze while recognising just how vulnerable Israel is even with that capability.

What becomes clear when looking back at his life is the extent to which he grew along with the country. As well as steering Israel through various periods of her existence he also changed and grew along with it. Often this propensity for growth was passed off as something less than noble, less than honest. A man who people couldn’t trust at the helm of the country. But I see a man who grew, whose positions didn’t stagnate with time but evolved, he was a man who had the courage of his convictions, far from being ashamed of this fact he flaunted it, he pushed it and time will show him to be either a visionary or a fool for doing so. In any case the line between the two is so thin it’s almost impossible to define.

True leaders aren’t afraid to let the people know their vision for the future and allow them to choose accordingly. The alternative is a leader with nothing to offer but empty words, a leader without vision. Something Peres can never be accused of. Nevertheless Israelis consistently chose leaders who were weak on vision and offered Israel more of the same, they tended to view Peres as a risk. A man to be trusted with a purely ceremonial position but not with the future of the country he helped create and define.

What is certain is that the last of the greats has left us, there will be no one to tell us of the legends of our time who actually knew them and worked with them, no one left to guide us through the tough times and certainly no one at all with that indomitable spirit that knew for certain that if you will it is no dream, because they willed it and as a result we’re living it.