The day I moved to Israel was the day that Shimon Peres, one of Israel’s founding fathers, passed away. Peres, a former prime minister and president was a first-hand witness to every moment in our country’s history. Peres was a revolutionary who pursued peace will all of his might; he was an optimist, but he wasn’t naive. He believed in achieving a lasting peace that ensured Israel’s security and wouldn’t undermine the determination of the Palestinians to achieve their hope for statehood. From the moment I became involved in Israel advocacy, Peres was someone I looked up to.
I moved to Israel from Montreal to pursue my masters degree in Diplomacy and Conflict Studies. I was born into an Israeli family with deep roots in the country’s history. All four of my grandparents fled their native countries to seek refuge in a land they hoped would eventually become the Jewish state. Their dreams became a reality and made it possible for me to call Israel my home.
While attending Concordia University, I became increasingly involved in on-campus activism for Israel. I joined the Israel on Campus club and became part of an incredible network of Jewish and non-Jewish students who believed in Israel’s right to exist— as both a Jewish and democratic state. My experiences in fighting against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement led me to the realization that advocating for Israel would eventually become my life’s work.
On Sunday January 8, I was invited to visit the Peres Centre for Peace. We toured the facilities and learnt about all of the incredible work and accomplishments of the organization. The Peres Centre is both innovative and revolutionary. Their initiatives in bringing about change and implementing programs aimed at peace building through innovation, education, medicine and business is truly inspiring. I left the centre feeling remarkably optimistic and hopeful.
Moments after I left, I checked Twitter and read about the horrible terrorist attack that had just happened in Jerusalem. A truck rammed into a group of pedestrians, killing 4 civilians and injuring countless others. My optimism was immediately shattered by utter disbelief, shock and sadness. I was in tears. For the life of me, I could not understand how people are able to commit such appalling and horrendous acts. In the coming days and weeks we, both the Israeli people and those living in the diaspora, will mourn the lives that were cut short by this inconceivable act of terror.
Shimon Peres once said: “You can kill a thousand; you can bring an end to life; you cannot kill an idea.” As we come together and grieve the attack that occurred in Jerusalem, it is crucial for us not to forget the lessons instilled in us by one of Israel’s founding fathers. Peres’ worldview encompassed both reason and realism. As much as he believed in peace, he understood that Israel is remarkable country located in a region capable of unspeakable evils. The peace which he sought, and that we must continue to seek, will only be achieved with an end to terror and incitement. Peres’ life embodied what makes Israel and the Jewish diaspora an incredible nation. We, as a people, are capable of coming together – in both good and bad times – to overcome whatever is thrown our way. And, in remembering the legacy of Shimon Peres, this is exactly what we will do.