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Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, then led attendees in singing “Shalom Aleichem.” Her talent as a singer wowed the crowd, as it has here for several years now. Jacob Frenkel then chanted the blessings for the wine and bread. Shortly after the dinner of egg noodle tagliatelle and vegetable kabob began, it was Peres’s turn to speak.
It was lost on no one there, including Peres, that this incredible gathering — particularly in Switzerland, which had remained frustratingly neutral during World War II, though on this night the Swiss were gracious and welcoming hosts — was an affirmation of the Jews’ resilience.
“I remember when Israel was not a state, but a doubt,” Peres said.
He let that sink in, and then continued: “I saw so many impossible situations. Israel had no water. We have two seas — one dead, one dying. We had nothing. Not food, not oil, not a land that could enrich us. It was and has been through our history the human being — human talent — that has spurred our survival and success.”
Peres addressed the current tense political situation by saying: “Our greatest hope is to make peace. We don’t hate the Arabs; we don’t hate the Muslims.”
Next, Barak stood to speak, beginning with a little humor.
“There’s an old Yiddish saying: Be healthy, because troubles will not be in short supply!” The crowd laughed.
“Israel is healthy and strong, but troubles are not in short supply,” he said, giving a nod to the political earthquakes in the Middle East stemming from the “Arab Spring.” He then turned to the issues of unemployment, inflation and angst in Israel.
“It shouldn’t be that it takes young Israelis who work hard some 10 years to buy even a little apartment. It is fair for them to say, he continued, ‘You, the leaders, are not living up to our expectations.’
“We need a more sincere dialogue between citizens and politicians,” he said.
After rousing applause, he started to leave the podium and then quickly returned.
“Oh, and Stanley Fischer [of Israel’s Central Bank] would like me to mention that Israel is a wonderful place, so please invest,” he added.
As I left the dining room, I ran into JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon in the hotel lobby. “Liz, you’re Jewish?” he asked, observing my very Irish-looking red hair and green eyes.
After that Davos Shabbat, I couldn’t have been prouder to answer: “You bet, Jamie. 100%.”
Liz Claman is an anchor for Fox Business Network.