Israeli President Visits LA, Talks Hope For Future
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (Jewish LA) along with six other organizations sponsored the event, hosted by actor and comedian Jason Alexander. Catherine Schneider, senior vice president of community development at Jewish LA, said over 150 organizations invited leaders and community members to welcome President Peres.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, members of the LA City Council and Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, were also just a few of the political leaders in attendance who came to show their support.
“The president of Israel is 98 years old,” Schneider said. “So the fact that he has traveled all the way to Los Angeles…I don’t know that he has been here at least in the past 15 years so it’s a tremendous opportunity to hear him.”
Wednesday marked the first of his four-day trip through Los Angeles - a city with the second largest Jewish community next to New York. Schneider said she was thrilled to hear him speak.
Villaraigosa was on hand to offer his support and said it was important to reaffirm support for Israel as the threat of Iran hovers over the Jewish state.
“We must remain dedicated to the safety of every Israeli family,” Villaraigosa said.
During a two-hour interview by Campbell Brown, journalist and former CNN anchor of her self-titled news show, Peres emphasized peace - a stark contrast to the rhetoric of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I think if we have to choose, let’s start with a nonviolent, no-war beginning while saying very clearly all other options are on the table, but all of us agree, let’s start with an economic and diplomatic option as the first course,” Peres said.
“I think [President Obama], made it clear that he will not compromise on the issue of Iran," Peres said. "It’s a danger to all of the world, not just to Israel. And I think while everybody is looking for differences the basis is common and agreed…by the leaders of the entire world, to see an Iranian government which threatens to destroy another country.”
Brown pointed out that a recent survey among Israelis said many do not want Israel to act unilaterally without the support of the United States. She questioned how the country would build domestic support if Netanyahu were to act.
“There are many ways to deal with it. I don’t think we have to make it a public debate ahead of time,” Peres said to an applauding audience.
The current head of state was born in Poland and moved with his family to, what was at the time, Palestine. He said the one event he will never forget as a child is the last words his grandfather said before being burned by Nazis inside a synagogue: “My son, be Jewish. Don’t give up.”
Peres remains a key political figure, which includes a history of serving as prime minister two times. He also played an important role during Israel’s war for independence by establishing alliances and purchasing arms.
He was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for the peace talks he engaged in resulting in the Oslo Accords, while serving as Israel’s foreign minister.
With the evolution Peres has seen Israel undergo, he said it was important to focus on the education of children.
“I would educate our children, instead of remembering so much, to dream more. Dreams are more important than memories,” Peres said.
“I think we will see a change in the way we work and learn that we will put more time into learning…to not only be a student but a teacher of himself because if you graduate from university it’s not enough, whatever you have learned,” he said. “The questions are the same but the answers are different.”
Reach staff reporter Subrina Hudson here.