The world will gather in Jerusalem on Friday to pay its respects to one of the truly great personalities of our time. We grieve with Israel, the land of the survivors, the land that Shimon Peres helped to build, that he proudly served for decades and that has been shaped by his words and his deeds. Germany is grieving for a greatly esteemed loyal friend and partner as it pays tribute to his life’s work in profound gratitude and respect.
In his determination to link the past to the future, Shimon Peres helped to establish the unique friendship that has flourished between Israel and Germany. In 1986, he became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit the then divided Berlin – a city which evoked many memories but also, as he said at the time, many hopes. History has proved him right. How normal it has become, just a few decades later, for Israel’s young people to come and enjoy Berlin as a bustling metropolis.
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To us Germans, it is a veritable miracle that we have been able to come together after the darkest of times. In 2010, Shimon Peres addressed the German Bundestag, saying, “The bridge built across the ravine was built by painful hands and shoulders that were carrying the burden of memory. It rests on strong moral foundations.” And indeed, we of today’s generation stand in awe of the great humanity and political vision of Shimon Peres and his contemporaries.
Shimon Peres was convinced that, to shape the future, you must permit yourself to dream – and not because this was some lofty ideal. For him, never losing sight of the horizon of hope was no less than a straightforward obligation. His vision for the future perhaps made all the clearer by his acute awareness of the past, Shimon Peres sought a future of shared progress, success and freedom for the young people of Israel and the region.
With a strong conviction that the course of history can be altered, he fought to overcome confrontation and enmity. Shimon Peres was untiring in his efforts to see, as he put it, the Jewish State of Israel one day live side by side in friendship and cooperation with an Arab State of Palestine – partly from a belief that peace is a product not necessarily of love but of necessity.
He paved the way for Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation and a peaceful, shared future for Israel and its neighbours – and he never stopped believing in that aim. He was never one to build castles in the air; he always tried to find feasible routes towards his goals.
Like so many of those who gather here in Jerusalem or are participating in the Israeli people’s grief from afar, I admired Simon Peres for his vision and his courage. He was a great man; his life’s work stands as an example and as a reminder of our shared duty. We will all miss him so very much.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the German Foreign Minister.
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