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Shimon Peres, Last of Israel's Founding Leaders, Dies at 93
The Wired Word for the Week of October 9, 2016
In the News
Shimon Peres, the elder statesman of Israel, died September 28, two weeks after suffering a massive stroke at the age of 93. His obituary in The New York Times declared that he "was laid to rest as an Israeli prince of peace." He is considered the last link to Israel's founding generation.
Over his lifetime of service to Israel, Peres served in several leadership positions, including defense minister, foreign minister, prime minister and others. His most recent office was that of president, a position Peres held from 2007 until his retirement in 2014.
Prior to the 1948 war for independence that established the nation of Israel, Peres was assigned responsibility for manpower and arms. In 1948, during the war, he was appointed head of Israel's navy. At war's end, he became director of the Defense Ministry's delegation in the United States.
In a political career spanning nearly 70 years, Peres later served twice as the prime minister of Israel and twice as interim prime minister, He was a member of 12 cabinets. When he retired in 2014 from Israel's presidency, he was the world's oldest head of state.
While Peres would have liked his legacy to be peace for Israel, the reality of the situation over the years meant that many of his efforts had to be focused on his nation's security when its peace was threatened. He helped to develop Israel's nuclear options and stood up to Palestinian Arab demands when he deemed it necessary for Israel's well-being.
However, he did make significant efforts for peace. Along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Peres, who was then Israel's foreign minister, won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for the talks that produced the Oslo Accords.
Sadly, the Oslo Accords did not produce a lasting peace, and conflict remains.
In 1996, Peres founded the Peres Center for Peace, which describes itself as a "non-profit, non-political, non-governmental organization focused on promoting lasting peace and advancement in the Middle East by fostering tolerance, economic and technological development, innovation, cooperation and well-being, all in the spirit of President Peres' vision." Its logo is a stylized dove and olive branch with the word "peace" in Arabic, Hebrew and English. It seeks "to advance the creation of a real, effective and durable peace" that is implemented in three core fields:
More on this story can be found at these links:
Shimon Peres: Not Just a Man of Peace. The New York Times
President Barack Obama's Eulogy [for Shimon Peres]. The Jerusalem Post
The Peres Center for Peace
Shimon Peres: Loser, Schemer or Romantic? Aljazeera
Applying the News Story
In the introduction above, we described a point of similarity between Peres and Moses in that both were closed out of a "Promised Land." In Moses' case, it was the actual Promised Land of Canaan; in Peres' case, it was the metaphorical Promised Land of peace and security for his nation. Both men devoted their lives to leading their people to the edge of that land.
There are a few other points of similarity as well: Like Moses, Peres was a warrior when he needed to be. Like Moses, Peres was up against a force as intransigent as a pharaoh. Like Moses, he was leading a people who often disagreed with his decisions. And like Moses, Peres died not only revered by many, but also hale and hearty almost to the end.
But mostly, we are focusing on the matter of goals not reached.
The capricious unraveling of legitimately earned fulfillments happens to most of us at some time or other. It happens, for example, when we realize that our marriage, although intact, is never going to reach the level of companionship we had hoped for. It happens when the company we have worked for faithfully for years downsizes us out of our job or dumps us without an expected and promised pension. It happens when the church in which we labor fails to grow. It happens when we reach retirement with plans to travel or enjoy a life of leisure in some other way, only to have it all shot down by a sudden loss of health. And it happens in other ways too.
The Big Questions
1. When have you felt shortchanged by life with no way to get what you've worked hard for or assumed you are entitled to? Especially how do you feel when you have paid your dues, done your homework, burned the midnight oil, kept your shoulder to the wheel and your nose to the grindstone, when you have poured your heart, mind and strength into reaching a goal or fulfilling a dream, and then found that the reward is going to elude you despite all that?
2. How might your answer to Question 1 change, if at all, if you perceived that it was God who slammed the door you had expected to go through?
3. When you've served God faithfully and things still don't work out, what does that do to your faith? Can God be trusted even then? Why or why not? What, if anything, helps you maintain your faith in God despite such turns of events?
4. What role does the question "Where does God want me to go from here?" have after you are shut out of some reward you deserved?
5. What do you gain when you fail to achieve benchmarks you've worked hard for? What does a church gain after its members work hard to help the church grow only to see it shrink?
Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope
Psalm 23:1, 3
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. … He leads me in right paths for his name's sake. (For context, read 23:1-6.)
That God will lead us "in right paths" is a conviction born of faith.
Questions: When things don't work out as we think they should, and, in fact, something that is rightfully ours is irretrievably snatched away or put out of our reach, can that outcome still be interpreted as being on the "right path"? How can we test that interpretation? Should being led by God in the right paths be understood as a promise to faithful people? Why or why not?
Can the path we have originally chosen somehow equip us for the real path God seems to have chosen for us?
Responding to the News
This is a good time to remind ourselves that when we don't receive an expected reward, this is not God going back on his word. God never promised that we won't have to relinquish anything in this life, but he has promised to be with us through whatever happens.
He has promised us that nothing can separate from his love -- not disappointment, not slammed doors, not pain, not worry, not tragedy, not even death, can separate us from him (see Romans 8:38-39).
And he has promised us another world beyond this one, the ultimate Promised Land, toward which we go.
This knowledge about God may not make things any less painful now, but it does set us free to walk away from the tombs of our former hopes when the burial of those hopes is over and done. And it helps us remember that we are not failures as people even though some important dreams of ours have not succeeded.
The finest kind of faith is not that which grows out of easy times, but that which continues to trust God's promises despite being closed out of our personal promised lands in this life.
Help us to count on what you have actually promised, O Lord, and not treat our wishes as though they were divine promises. But when life slams doors in our face, give us your grace, and bolster our trust in you. In Jesus' name. Amen.