“No Room for Small Dreams”by Brie Stimson October 31, 2017
Shimon Peres, one of Israel’s founding fathers, served as prime minister, president and foreign minister among other roles during his more than 60 years in government. In 1994, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in the Oslo Accords, which promoted peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. He passed away in September 2016 at the age of 93, but his last work, a memoir called “No Room for Small Dreams” came out posthumously this fall. I spoke to his youngest son, Chemi Peres, who was promoting his father’s book in New York at the time. The interview has been edited for space.
SDJJ: Can you start by just telling me a little bit about your father?
Chemi Peres: He was an inspiring father; He was a very modern one. He always traveled to exciting places and met with modern people and he was a great storyteller. He always told us about his experiences, places he visited, people he met with and since he was a great storyteller it was inspiring to listen to him tell stories … it’s a great honor and I’m honored to be his son.
He was also someone who used to recommend what books to read. He used to come and give you a book sometimes in the evening and he would call you at 7 o’clock in the morning to ask you what do you think about the book.
SDJJ: What do you think his greatest accomplishment was in his career?
Chemi Peres: Building the defense industry of Israel, he was the one who secured Israel militarily, and created a project of building the nuclear facilities because that created the deterrent that really saved Israel. And over the years we’ve gotten stronger and created a military force against our rivals from the surrounding neighbors.
And I think the second thing he was very proud of was being recognized for his efforts to build peace between Israel … and our neighbors. As you know he earned the Nobel Peace Prize and he also got the Medal of Freedom from President Obama.
SDJJ: Was he close with President Obama?
Chemi Peres: He was very close to President Obama. They had a very special bond and a very special relationship. He respected Obama and admired his integrity and his brilliance. He thought Obama was a brilliant president.
SDJJ: Why did he believe that peace was possible?
Chemi Peres: He believed what seems to be impossible is possible. Life, as he describes in the book, is a continued lesson … and according to him the Israelis and Palestinians must have an agreement for peace … because there is no other option.
He always said fighting for peace requires more courage than going to war And he was a very, very brave man.
SDJJ: Is it important for you to continue his legacy?
Chemi Peres: It is important for the world because his legacy is a worthy legacy for the whole world … My father did not care about being remembered as a human being, but I think he showed us a great road ahead for the future. My father was a man of the future, he was not a man of the past. This is why he did not call his book “ a life’ or “a history of Israel” but he called it “No Room for Small Dreams” urging us to continue to dream … and make the world better through science and technology and moral values.
SDJJ: Can you tell me one memory you have of your father?
Chemi Peres: When I started the flight course as a pilot in the Israeli Air Force … my father used to send me letters and inspire me [to] never give up … So those letters he wrote to me through two years at the flight course have served me … when times were rough.
SDJJ: Did you keep the letters?
Chemi Peres: Of course.
SDJJ: Tell me another memory?
Chemi Peres: When we did the commemoration of the first year of his passing away … The guest of honor was Dr. [Henry] Kissinger … who was a close friend of my father. And when Kissinger came he said, “You know, I have a letter from your father that was sent to me 14 years ago where your father wrote to me, ‘today my son starts flying.'” And it was quite amazing and I told Dr. Kissinger I’m very happy to report that not only did I start flying I graduated the flight course and I became a pilot in in the Israeli air force.
SDJJ: What was his message with this book?
Chemi Peres: This book, my father wanted it to be his voice that would continue to echo around the world after he’s gone and share his life story as a reflection for the future how we can and should shape a better future for all of us. A