MY OWN SUMMIT WITH SHIMON PERES
In September 2016 Israel's former president and Nobel laureate, Shimon Peres, passed away. Only a few months before I had been granted a rare interview with him. The interview was not about politics, but about how Shimon's father Yitzhak was saved during the second world war by an Australian padre.
In February 2016, Shimon Peres’ secretary advised that we could set a date for my interview with Israel’s former Prime Minister and President. I was surprised to say the least, because only three weeks earlier, Peres had undergone a heart operation.
When I read that Peres had been admitted to hospital, my first (very selfish) reaction was that my chance to interview a person who has made significant impressions on history has disappeared.
THE LEGENDary PERES
Shimon Peres (1923-2016) was not only a legendary politician, Nobel laureate and Israel’s foremost advocate for a two-state solution. He was also (practically) the last living link with the birth of the Jewish state.
I should have known better. Shimon Peres did not give up so easily, and he did not intend to die yet. There were too many unresolved issues to deal with. I breathed a sigh of relief, the interview would happen after all and my radio programme would get made. At the same time, I was quite surprised that Peres, despite his fragile health, wanted to take the time to be interviewed.
It was obviously important for him to tell the story of how the Australian padre, Rex Dakers saved his father Yitzhak Perski’s life during world war 2.
Yitzhak never got the chance to thank Pastor Dakers personally, but seventy years later, Shimon managed to find the Australian’s family in Melbourne. The padre who stopped Yitzhak’s execution was my wife’s grandfather and therefore I had the opportunity to interview a man who in 1994 received the Nobel Peace Prize.
THE MONTHS GO BY
Several months passed before we found a date that suited everyone involved. I was a little worried again when Peres’ secretary in a telephone conversation suggested that we not wait too long. I did not dare ask if his health had deteriorated, but began to follow everything the Israeli press reported on Peres.
It is unbelievable to imagine that Shimon Peres was still the President of Israel just two years ago, at the age of ninety. In that role, he did much to try to improve the country’s rather bad political reputation. After his departure, Peres devoted much time to acting as a kind of goodwill ambassador.
He was an ardent advocate of Israel’s technological advancement and never gave up hope of peace with the Palestinians. It can probably be said that he remained Israel’s foremost peace broker for the rest of his life. Shimon Peres had no intention of resting on his laurels.
PERES 'START UP' BECAME A NATION
In June, I flew to Ben Gurion International Airport, named after the father of Israel. It reminded me that Shimon Peres was his protégé and if it were not for David Ben-Gurion, it is possible that Peres would not have become what he became. Palestine was a pioneer society for the young Zionists in the 1940s, and sometimes people literally had to fight for their lives.
On the way to Tel Aviv you see many construction cranes and it is obvious that Israel is still a ‘start up nation’. The pioneering spirit lives on and the country can today boast several of the world’s most innovative companies in the computer and biomedical industry.
Shimon Peres himself was involved in ‘starting up’ a completely new nation. Towards the end of my interview, he remembered the pioneering spirit, the strong ties to the earth. Peres himself thought that he did not grow up in a country, but in a dream.
Produced and Written by: Albert Ehrnrooth
Audio Editing: Lindyanne
Language: Swedish with interviews in English.