Day four of the Israel Foreign Ministry Diplomatic Seminar began at the President Shimon Peres home in Jerusalem. He was elected to the post in 2007 as the 9th President of Israel. He was born in Belarus in 1923, and immigrated to Israel at the age of 11 growing up on Kibbutz Alumot just south of the Sea of Galilee.
As a proud member of San Francisco’s progressive Reform synagogue, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, I could not think of a better gift to give him that represents the pluralism of the community I come from than our prayerbook, Siddur Sha’ar Zahav.
My father thought it was funny that I would carry a prayer book to Israel from San Francisco. He said in his usual joking manner, “All Israel needs is another prayer book.” I of course gave a serious rebuttal and packed it in my bag for Israel.
Peres is seen in the Presidential role as a wise sage by many in Israel. In my experience, Peres might be known for many things in the world but what stands out for me in regards to furthering my respect for him was learning from Captain Avner Even–Zohar that in his role as Secretary of Defense he advocated for Gays and Lesbians to fully serve in the Israeli army. Additionally, Peres visited the Tel Aviv LGBT Youth building after the August 1, 2009 shooting that left two people dead and 15 people wounded. The day after the shooting Peres said, “The shocking murder in Tel Aviv last night is the kind of murder that an enlightened and cultured people cannot accept. Murder and hate are society’s toughest crimes. The entire country must unite in condemning this heinous act.” For these two acts of advocacy for the LGBT community as a leader I thanked him when I had my short conversation with him. We also spoke about the uniqueness of Siddur Sha’ar Zahav and he said it was very interesting and said he will enjoy looking through the pages.
For more photos of the day in Jerusalem mixed in with lots of other photos of my trip in smugmug please click here. If you want to see my photos in my Picasa Google Photo Gallery instead please click here.