The near-nonogenarian is one of the most recognized and highly regarded individuals in the world. Distinguished by his frothy mane of carefully combed, silver-white hair, his sonorous baritone voice, his charming, warm, broad smile, his ability to condense experience into wisdom and wisdom into aphorism, when he speaks, others listen.
This week, many Canadians will have heard Shimon Peres speak and will have undoubtedly marvelled at the clearly envisioned and carefully drawn horizon of hope and possibility that he envisions for Israel, the Middle East and all humankind.
Since Sunday, the president of the State of Israel has been on a five-day state visit to Canada, received by Canada’s head of state, its head of government and myriad government, parliamentary, community and other officials and lay leaders with the enthusiasm and warmth indicative of the profound respect for the distinguished visitor personally, and of the deep friendship for the tiny, remarkable country that he represents.
And it is indeed an extraordinary friendship anchored in the single-most important and precious value on God’s earth: cherishing, nurturing, saving and protecting each and every human life. It is this value that provides the bedrock core of democracy. And it is this foundation of democracy, common to both Canada and Israel, that ties the two countries together in an iron and steel ribbon of life-affirming purpose that must stand for all time.
Among the official duties to which Peres be attending during his visit is the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Royal Society of Canada and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. There is no doubt, however, that this ceremony was less duty and more pleasure for Peres. He is and has always been a stalwart champion of education and science as the key methods for building bridges of peace across the wide, scarred crevices of conflict and distrust.
At a hopeful gathering of foreign leaders at Sharm el-Sheikh, on March 13, 1996, then-prime minister Peres said: “Let us all unite to wipe out the curse of terror and to receive the blessing of peace. Let your children and our children know a future of peace. Let them march, safe and sound, through the gates of the next century, free of fear, equipped with knowledge and wisdom, into a new era for mankind.”
The building of this new era, an era of peace and prosperity for all mankind has been the one recurring theme of Shimon Peres’ life, to which he has committed all his strength, all his will, all his courage, his prayers and his deeds.
Welcome to Canada President Peres. May God crown your deeds with success.