Together with the Ambassador of Israel in Australia, His Excellency Shmuel ben Shmuel, over 300 people gathered at Beth Weizmann Community Centre last night to remember the life and legacy of Shimon Peres z”l who passed away a few days before the commencement of the high holidays.
The commemoration was coordinated by representatives from Zionism Victoria, AUJS, ZFA, AIJAC, JCCV and the Zionist Youth Council of Victoria and focused on Shimon Peres’s life journey and his legacy to the State of Israel, the Jewish people and mankind.
Beautiful musical interludes by Nissim Ben-Salamon, Lexi Kowal and the Hebrew Music Ensemble – an ensemble of instrumentalists and vocalists from Leibler Yavneh College – added the touch of reverence and warmth that was felt across the hall.
Kobi Oved, visiting musician from Israel associated with the Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, accompanied by the renowned Adam Starr, delivered a soulful rendition of “Avinu Malkeinu”, the musical piece chosen by Shimon Peres to be sung at his funeral.
The evening followed the life of Shimon Peres through his arrival in Israel at the age of 11, through his long political career that spanned over five decades in the Knesset, and included the Entebbe rescue in 1976, the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s, through the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and onto his election as the ninth President of the State of Israel.
Throughout his long and dedicated life, Peres was a champion for the State of Israel, its people and achievements. In his words, “Israel, this small country, became a truly great state. Gathering in its people. Making its wilderness bloom. Resurrected from the ruins, surviving a terrible Holocaust. Fighting back in seven wars. Bringing a language back to life. Respecting its traditions and adopting modernity. I leave the presidency …as a deep believer that Israel is an exemplary state”.
The evening reminded us of the peace work, a focus of Peres’s life, be it negotiating the Oslo accords to the establishment of the Peres Peace Center, all testament to his belief that people can make a change and this is accomplished through the empowerment of the entire Israeli society – Jews and Arabs as one – to be an active part in building peace and making it a reality.
The night belonged to the youth who gathered in large numbers and led the Memorial with dignity and true respect and emotion for Shimon Peres. In the words of Alan Stein from the Zionist Youth Council, “Peres always sought to bring peace for the sake of the next generation. His vision heralded many innovative ways to increase communications and acceptance between different peoples in the Middle East…Just a few weeks before his death, Peres installed the smartphone application Snapchat saying: “Young people inspire me and the most important thing for me is to hear what they have to say…today all the young people are on snapchat”.
An evening of inspirational words from this great leader interspersed with moving musical pieces, combined with a magical audio-visual production of photos and footage of his life made for a most dignified and respectful community memorial for the Ninth President of the State of Israel.