April 2016

By Jamie Spock

As American students, none of us on the Nachshon project can say that we met a founding father of our country or any country for that matter. So you can imagine how excited we were, as a cohort, when we found out that we would be meeting with former President and Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres. This is someone who has seen Israel through all of its history and all of its ups and downs up until the present day. It’s hard not to feel humbled when you learn you’re going to be in the presence of such a person. The reason that we are on the Nachshon Project is to hone our leadership skills and to be able to utilize them in serving the North American Jewish community. What better person could we possibly visit to teach us about leadership?

Peres is in his mid-nineties now and doesn’t have the energy that he once did but he hasn’t let his age stand in the way of continuing his work for Israel in the form of his non-profit, non-political, non-religious organization Peres Peace House. The headquarters of his organization is in Jaffa and that’s where we went for our meeting. The building itself is exceptional. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, a regular concrete building, but the inside tells a different story. The concrete theme continues inside, signifying the heaviness of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is also glass interwoven throughout the cement layers of the building representing the hope that exists for peace and conflict resolution. The front of the building faces the Mediterranean, a symbol that all are welcome to the center and that everyone has a voice in the peace process. The room where we met with Peres was essentially a small library with very high ceilings but it still felt quite intimate.

I was definitely nervous to meet Shimon Peres. In the library, while we were waiting for him to arrive, my hands definitely started to shake a little bit. When he walked into the room I was awestruck to say the least. Continue reading