My Iftar Dinner With Shimon Peres

A Surreal Ramadan Visit With the Israeli President

Rubbing Shoulders: The author (right) meets Israeli president Shimon Peres.
Isi Tenenbom
Rubbing Shoulders: The author (right) meets Israeli president Shimon Peres.

By Tuvia Tenenbom

Published August 31, 2013, issue of September 06, 2013.
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Don’t ask me why I think old men are wise; this is something I was taught when I was a baby, and somehow it never left my brain.

Interfering with my thought process was a sudden, new development: A qadi decreed that Iftar in Jerusalem is at 7:49 p.m.

At 7:49 we were permitted to eat. I made up my mind to sit with the commanders. Wise is good, but mighty is better.

I could have joined the press table, but journalists sometimes bore me. Especially these days, when they are obsessing on the issue of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, they pretend to know everything and push their own political beliefs on reality. In truth, they know as much as everybody does, which is nothing, but they will never admit it.

Peres, of course, is different. He seems to know what the rest of us don’t.

“I know,” he said as he spoke about the peace talks, that “there are people who say nothing will come out of it, but I say it will.” And then he added: “I want to praise the two leaders who decided to renew talks: my friend Mahmoud Abbas… and the prime minister of Israel.”

Interesting that he reserves the “friend” title just for the Palestinian leader.

“We are all adults here,” Peres said as he continued, “and I know that there will be times of hardships… but we have no other alternative to peace… All of us were created in the image of Elokim.”

He used the Orthodox term for God: Not Elohim, but Elokim. Why? God knows.

Peres talked a bit more, and by the time he stopped, I started a little conversation with the big shots at my table.

How big are they?

I asked them, and they told me. To my left was a doctor in the security jail of Megiddo. Next to him was a “mayor” of a small village. The others seemed pretty much the same to me and, with one exception, everybody at the table was Circassian, not Arab. The one Arab there, a man dressed in civilian clothes, was a computer security specialist.

I exchanged a few words with him.

“Are Arabs and Jews getting along in this country?” I asked.

“No way.”

I assumed he was kidding. There were leading Muslims there, though not at the table, and if Arabs and Jews didn’t get along, why were they there?


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