Much has – and will – be said about the remarkable spirit of the late former President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Until his death at the age of 93, he remained young and energetic, optimistic and humorous, and willing to laugh at himself, the polar opposite of a stereotypical tired, crotchety old man.
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Perhaps nothing illustrates that point and reflects Peres’ relentlessly positive and forward-thinking nature more clearly than the last Tweet sitting atop Peres’ Twitter timeline – announcing the creation of his Snapchat account last month.
The tweet demonstrates how Peres was always far more interested in the future than the past, whether it is the next global development, breakthrough technology or the newest social media platform, embracing the Internet as a way to send his messages across Israel and the world.
The Internet may have only emerged as the world’s dominant channel of communication after Peres was already in his 80s, but he embraced the social media era with a vengeance.
In a way, Shimon Peres and social media seem to have been made for each other. Always travelling, he was the Israeli political leader with one the most expansive networks of friends and associates around the world. The multitude of online platforms allowed him to maintain and deepen his existing ties, as well as attract new generations of admirers.
While many Israeli politicians were early adopters, opening and posting in Hebrew on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, it has been Peres who has perhaps most aggressively used technology to reach out to the wider world. Peres was plugged into the burgeoning world of Israeli hi-tech through his son Chemi, one of the country’s most prominent venture capitalists.
In 2012, then-President Peres and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg launched the president's international Facebook page with Zuckerberg being the first to press 'like' on the page.
In his first post, Peres wrote, "I hope to find this page to be a place where peace dreamers and believers speak up and share their stories and experiences with me. Facebook empowers us. So let's dare to believe, start to change our world and create a better tomorrow." The launch was accompanied by a video dance mix song starring Peres by music artist Noy Alooshe called “Be My Friend” that went viral around the world.
Two years later, Peres went internationally viral once more, this time in a video entitled “Shimon Peres Goes Job Hunting” released after his term as president ended in 2014.
In the charming and humorous clip, Peres asks “what’s next?” as he packed up his office in the president’s mansion. He goes on to try his hand at a number of jobs – gas pump attendant, mall security guard, pizza deliveryman, stand-up comedian and even sky-diver.
The light-hearted video, produced by the former president's' granddaughter Mika Almog, closes with Peres and his sky-diving instructor landing in an open field. Peres tells the young man “come on, we have a lot of work to do” and his companion looks around and says there’s nothing there. Peres responds, “When there’s nothing, you can do anything” and forges ahead.
The film ends with a montage of the activities of his foundation on behalf of the country and of peace, punctuated with a Peres quote: “You are as great as the cause that you serve, and as young as your dreams.” (And, apparently, your social media accounts.)
One of Peres’ final major projects of his life was fundraising and laying the groundwork for “The Israeli Innovation Center” museum planned to open at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, scheduled to open to the public in early 2018. The main interactive museum exhibit will trace the history of Israeli innovation and showcase Israel’s best-known inventions of the past. But reflecting the Peres spirit of always looking forward into the future, another floor will provide a space for the latest generation of local entrepreneurs to present their new innovations.
At the groundbreaking ceremony in July, Peres described his vision for the museum – which could also apply to his use of technology and social media during his life.
“We will obviously salute the achievements of the past, but we will mainly be focused on breakthroughs for a new tomorrow. We will prove that innovation has no boundaries and no barriers and that it allows for dialogue between nations and populations.”