Hundreds visit first night of shiva at Peres Center for Peace
Ambassadors, MKs, Jews and Arabs came on Saturday to remember Shimon Peres at the building that he wanted to be a symbol of coexistence; his son said that their private grief was joined by the grief of the nation who felt their own pain and loss.
Hundreds of well-wishers, including members of Knesset, ambassadors and regular citizens visited the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa on Saturday night as part of the Jewish ritual mourning period of shiva for the deceased former President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres, whose funeral was Friday.
In the center's lobby, a large portrait of Peres stood on an easel alongside an Israeli flag, flowers and memorial candles.
The assembled visitors walked through the center, offered their condolences to the Peres family, and looked at photographs of Peres's life that had been put out around the building. All three of Peres's children were present.
Amongst those who attended were Supreme Court President Miram Naor; US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro; Leader of the Opposition MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union); MKs Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), Yael German (Yesh Atid) and Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid); former Minister of Foreign Affairs David Levy, former MK Haim Ramon; former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo; and singer David D'Or, who sang at Peres's funeral at the late statesman's request.
The American ambassador said to Ynet, "I had the honor as an ambassador to meet with President Peres a few times each month with our delegation alone or with President Obama. We had a deep personal connection. He always gave good advice in personal or state matters. He always asked for my wife and children. This loss has personally affected me. I already miss him terribly."
Jewish and Arab citizens alike travelled to pay their respects. The decision of the mostly Arab faction the Joint List to boycott Shimon Peres's funeral did "not represent the entire Arab sector," as Marcus, an Arab Israeli from Nazareth, put it to Ynet.
Nail Zoabi, a school principal from the north of the country agreed: "It was important to me to come here to say that we Arabs and Jews share in (our) mourning. A great injustice was done by the Joint List. I think that their (decision) is inhuman and doesn't represent us, and I'm ashamed by what they did. It crossed all the lines of good taste. With their act, they blemished the entire sector."
MK Gafni said, "I knew Shimon Peres for many years, both recently and when he was president, we met many times at his initiative over matters that were connected to the Jewish people and also over economic matters. I really respected and appreciated him. He has a lot of good will in this country, and as an ultra-Orthodox man, I can say that he has a lot of good will in the ultra-Orthodox sector, as well."
Fellow parliamentarian German said, "He's one of the greats of the generations. His faith in peace always instilled hope in my eyes. Together with him, the meaning of the word 'peace' died. I mourn for myself and for us that we've been left without him, without his hope and without his vision."
Levy, who served, as did Peres, in the past as foreign minister, described Peres as "a man who gave a huge contribution to the state even before its establishment and afterwards. We served together in the opposition, and in the government we were ministers. We always maintained mutual respect between us."
Once Shabbat ended, Peres's children came to the center. His son, Chemi, spoke briefly, saying, "The last time that dad appeared in public was here, and he spoke for an hour and a quarter and explained his vision and his worldview. Since he was hospitalized, the family accompanied him through all those hard days until the final day when dad died.
"Since then, we have been immersed in heavy grief, feeling that not just we, but the entire people of Israel (have suffered a loss.) Dad wanted to serve the people of Israel with all of his being, and that's what he did his entire life.