Shimon Peres: 1923-2016

I’m sad to hear of the passing of Shimon Peres. My friend Judah Ari Gross, a journalist in Israel, put it best two weeks ago when he compared Peres to Benjamin Franklin. In Israel and abroad, that is roughly the stature Peres has been able to maintain for decades.

I had the great pleasure to meet Peres twice. I helped organize an event in college bringing him to the University of Pennsylvania. At a reception, a staff member introduced me to him. We shook hands and I said something to the effect of, “It’s a great honor to meet you.” His answer was one word: “Yes.” He wasn’t wrong.

The other time I met Peres was on a trip to Israel with organizers of similar events across the U.S. He was incredibly gracious with his time. He spent his entire adult life in Israel’s public eye, famously brokering the Oslo Accords, which remain the most ambitious, most audacious effort to bring peace to the region.

It seems like a distant memory now, after so many more years of war, but in early 1990s it felt like we were sitting on the edge of history. Peace really seemed possible thanks to Peres.

There will be many fond remembrances of Shimon Peres. Tzipi Livni wrote a beautiful piece for The New York Times. This passage sums up what set Peres apart.

We could all see it in his eyes; he wanted to be loved — but he was not willing to give up on his beliefs.

I saw it every time I watched him ignore the cynics, risk being called naïve, and continue doggedly to speak for and pursue peace. This was the lesson that every leader needs to learn: Follow your inner compass no matter what.

He will be missed.