President Shimon Peres addressed the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly on Monday with a message of courage and call for a celebration of human life.
Peres, speaking to the close to 3,500 attendees at the federation’s annual conference, coined “The Global Jewish Shuk,” told listeners that he remembers the days of Israel’s founding, when the people arrived to a small piece of land, which was unfriendly, with swamps in the north and desert in the south and with only the mosquitos as neighbors – the rest were enemies.
“There was no water. We had two lakes. One was dead and the other was dying. There was one river, the Jordan River, which is full of fame and short of water – not for irrigation. … We had no guns. We were outnumbered with no support,” said Peres. “But you know what we discovered? The greatest treasure in life is the human being. When you have nothing, you have people. Israel is a story of people.”
Peres said that he has heard of the debate about whether or not Israel should be – or is – more Jewish or more democratic and at the notion that there would even be such a discussion he scoffed. .
“The first democrat on earth was Moses. … Every person was born in image of the Lord, which was first declaration of democracy. When it says [in the Torah] we should not be like slaves and what fight oppressors, a second declaration. When it says love your fellow man like yourself, a third declaration,” Peres said. “Democracy is a love of people and a belief in them.”
Answering questions posed by David Horovitz, founder and editor of “Times of Israel,” Peres made clear that the strength of the Jewish people is its brains and he said it is in science and education that the Jewish state should invest. He also called on the people to stay focused on peace.
“Peace is our goal,” he said.
Though he did not indicate that there would be an easy path.
Is peace at hand? He said people have to understand, “We are negotiating not because we agree, but because we do not agree. Negotiating is to convert disagreements to agreements, to convert enemies to friends. … When we start out it is difficult, complicated, we have to change many prejudices.”
And he said sometimes the greatest prejudices lie within your own people and it is them you have to convince.
A final call to action was to the young generation.
“We are not owners of land, we are creators of ambition,” said Peres. “The ambition is to do and to make a better world and now is your time.”
He continued: “Logic has a limit, not courage.”
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