Jewish Harvard affiliates are mourning the loss of former Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shimon Peres, who died Wednesday at the age of 93.
Peres, who graduated from Harvard Business School in 1951, died from stroke complications. He served as a three-term Israeli Prime Minister, as Minister of Defense, Finance, Transportation, and Foreign Affairs, and as President.
Peres was known for his emphasis on Israel’s defense, positions on West Bank settlements, and technological foresight.
Emeritus Law School professor Alan M. Dershowitz ’67 called Peres “a truly great man, a visionary” and described his legacy as one of a protective and innovative leader.
“He helped arm Israel when Israel needed to be armed against Egypt and Syria and Jordan, and he then turned to peace. He tried to beat swords into plowshares,” he said. “He was the originator of start-up nation in Israel, he was the one who saw that Israel’s future was in high technology.”
Israeli student Limor Gultchin ’17 described Peres as an integral part of Israel’s social and political fabric.
“He was part of our upbringing, part of our hope for peace, part of our hope for a better future,” she said. “And part of the main group that established what Israel has become… and what it was hoping to be.”
Peres received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, following his involvement in the Oslo Peace Accords. Gal Lin, Co-Chair of The Israel Caucus at the Kennedy School, said these efforts influenced Israelis’ perception of him.
“He was both instrumental in solidifying Israel’s security and in pursuing peace. And I think for Israel, he really symbolizes leadership with a vision. Not just concentrating on now, but imagining a better future and to pursue it,” he said.
In an emailed statement, Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, executive director of Harvard Hillel, said despite some criticism Peres’ policies may face, Israel has lost an influential leader.
“Various turns of his political career will be critiqued, and there are differing strategic views, to say the least; but, to my mind, the State of Israel has lost a human reflection of its truest self,” Steinberg wrote.
Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat ended his trip to Boston early in order to return to Jerusalem for Peres’s funeral on Friday. Mayor Barkat is expected to be joined by President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, and Secretary of State John Kerry.
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