Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Peres: ‘We came to the promised land, we must make it a land of promise’

Peres: ‘We came to the promised land, we must make                   it a land of promise’

Speaking at 90th birthday party, president calls for more just Israeli society, says ‘Israel and Palestine of tomorrow offer children ray of hope’

Israeli singer Shlomo Artzi congratulates Israeli President Shimon Peres after performing at a celebration 
in honor of Peres's 90th birthday, in Jerusalem, June 18, 2013. 
(photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

President Shimon Peres celebrated his 90th birthday Tuesday night with Israeli and foreign dignitaries, telling them that his one great lesson from years of experience as a public figure was to follow your moral compass.

“To be a loyal servant of your people, you must follow your moral compass, whose values are clear cut. At dusk, take stock of the errors of the day. At dawn, do not forget the night’s dreams. I have learned that a dream is only the beginning of a better tomorrow. And this is the spirit of the gathering that we open tonight. Making the dream of tomorrow — today’s agenda.”

Peres thanked his guests for coming from all over the world to celebrate the birthday of a man “whose only sin was to grow a year older.”

The festivities featured a star-studded guest list, including former US president Bill Clinton, Barbra Streisand, Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone, and Israeli celebrities and artists like Eyal Golan, Adi Ashkenazi and Shlomo Artzi.

The other guests also praised Peres, with former British prime minister Tony Blair calling the Israeli president Israel’s analogy to Britain’s queen, and Clinton saying Peres was the social Einstein, a nod to his years in the peace camp and late-blooming embrace of social media.

Peres used the occasion to call on Israelis to take the “necessary steps” to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.

“I believe that the Israel of tomorrow and the Palestine of tomorrow can offer our children a ray of hope. The advancement of peace will complete the march of Israel towards the fulfillment of its founding vision,” 
he said.

During the speech Peres thanked his family, making a special mention of his late wife — “the love of my life” — who died two years ago, and spoke of his love for his country, praising its many accomplishments while urging it to do better.

The president’s vision, he said, is for “a country which welcomes different opinions, but rejects all forms of discrimination whether based on religion, nationality, ethnicity or gender. A society which respects the weak and is kind to the foreigner, which cares for the orphan and the widow, the old and the sick. A country of solidarity and tolerance. But a country with zero-tolerance for violence, corruption and bullying.”

“We came to the promised land and now we must make it a land of promise,” said Peres.

Acknowledging Israelis’ reputation for brashness, Peres said: ”I am in love with my people, who can be passionate and even short-tempered. Their language is sometimes less than diplomatic but at the same time their understanding, their creativity, their courage and the goodness of their heart, their generosity and the warmth which they exude — can melt hearts.”

“The state of Israel is the living proof that the potential hidden within the human being is richer than the resources buried in the soil. I love this country,” he added.

Earlier in the event, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the exemplary status that Peres symbolizes in the eyes of many Israeli citizens as a striver for peace and defender of the country.

“Peace favors the strong. A strong Israel gives an opportunity for peace,” Netanyahu said.

“Shimon, you are a man of vision, a man of peace. You do not cease to be interested, to enquire, to hope, to achieve,” he said. “You look towards the future, that is a very Jewish characteristic. Our nation went through thousands of years in exile, but as time passed we only looked forward, until creating this state, of which you were one of its founders.”

Peres’s actual birthday is in August, but celebrations begin this week in conjunction with the 2013 Israel Presidential Conference, to be held Tuesday through Thursday in Jerusalem.

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