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Jewish Journal

The quotable Peres on history, women, Zuckerberg, Ben-Gurion and more

by Jonah Lowenfeld

March 14, 2012 | 5:35 pm

Israeli President Shimon Peres in Los Angeles on March 8. Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage

When Shimon Peres arrived in Los Angeles, many were looking for comments on Iran, and on the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace. But what most people really responded to were the thoughts Peres offered on other subjects. Here are a few of the more quotable parts of his speeches. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments.

About Science:

“Science does not have borders. Science cannot be measured, cannot be predicted, you cannot conquer it by armies, you cannot govern it by governments. And if the economy is global science is individual. A single man can change the world by the introduction of science.”

About the Arab World:

“What’s happening in the Arab world, like all other places, is that a new generation was born and they opened their eyes. With the communication of modern technology, they can see what’s happening outside their country, and other places, they compare notes and they say, How come? We don’t have jobs, we don’t have freedom, we don’t have enough food, we don’t have education. It has to change. The problem of the Middle East is poverty more than politics.”

About young people and history:

“Most people prefer to remember, rather than to dream. It’s the greatest mistake. What’s there to remember? About what? Your children wouldn’t like to continue your heritage or my heritage. They say to their parents, ‘Thank you very much, that you gave birth to us and gave us the chance to be alive, but please, don’t impose upon us your past. It’s not so great as you are telling it.’ What is the past? Wounded by wars…”

About old people and the new world:

“The world advanced more than our minds. There’s a new world with many old minds. Since we cannot change the world, we have to change our minds.”

About Mark Zuckerberg:

“I don’t know any theoretician who forecast that one day will come and a boy of 27 years by the name Zuckerberg, who doesn’t have a party, who doesn’t have an army, who doesn’t have a fortune, who has nothing – all of a sudden, changes the world.”

About the need to educate women:

“Egypt was, in 1952, a nation of 18 million. Today, they are 87 million. Nothing grew in Egypt five times—neither the Nile, nor the fields, nor the industry—but poverty. And you can’t save it just by money. The countries have to reform themselves. For example, I believe that if the Arabs don’t liberate their women, they don’t have a future.”

About what makes Israel great:

“My answer is, the moment we discovered that we have nothing in our land, the nothingness made us great, because we have had to turn to the greatest resource of human life, which is the human being. You know, Israel is a very small piece of land, not a very friendly land, a very stingy land. We don’t have water, we have a famous river, the Jordan river, but the Jordan river is richer in history than in water…We have two lakes; one is dead. The other is dying. We don’t have any natural resources. We are surrounded by hostility. I remember the early days, Israel was a doubt, not a country, with many question marks.”

About California:

“One of the things about California I like is that special twist, or extension, of democracy. Democracy is not only the right to be equal, but the equal right to be different. It’s a meeting of differences.”

About what it means to be Jewish:

“I say jokingly, what is the greatest contribution of the Jewish people to the rest of the world? My answer is: Dissatisfaction. A good Jew can never be satisfied. The minute he begins to be satisfied he stops being Jewish.”

About the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process:

“I think the process goes on. Like all processes it has problems and [we] make mistakes. It’s not simple. But that’s not a reason to give up the hope. And my hope is that we shall have with the Palestinians a real peace, based on a new reality, and have two states an Arab state of Palestine, a Jewish state of Israel, living side by side, democratically, friendly, science-based.”

About Fidel Castro:

“I think his intentions were fair but the conclusions were disappointing.”

About American Jews:

“Half of the Jewish People live in the United States. The smaller half.”

A message for would-be future leaders:

“Don’t be a leader. Don’t try to be on the top; try to be ahead. Don’t try to rule; try to serve. The people are not short of rulers; the people are short of servants. And if you serve the people, you will have their trust,”

About David Ben-Gurion:

“Ben-Gurion was one thing that I never saw in another leader: He was innocent. Wise, knowledgeable, intellectual – and yet, he didn’t become a cynic. It was like every day remarrying a new idea. And it impressed me very much.”

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