Like so many others in my Facebook feed, I had the opportunity to meet Shimon Peres, z”l, more than once. The first time though, was the most special. I was ten years old. It was October, 1987, just months before the first intifada. Vladimir Slepak had just been emigrated to Israel after years in Siberian exile. We were living in Jerusalem, and my parents pulled me out of school to attend a ceremony welcoming Vladimir and his wife Mariya to the country.
There were two kids in the auditorium that day–me and another little boy–who had worn refusenik awareness bracelets while we waited for Slepak’s release. Because this was Israel and things like this happen there, we were invited up to the podium to speak– me, with my broken Hebrew and elementary school awkwardness. But after I stuttered at the microphone, I was pulled over to the dais, sandwiched between the Slepaks and hugged intermittently by Mariya, Vladimir and Peres, all morning.
To say that morning was my political awakening would be hyperbole. Let’s just say my love and concern for the State of Israel was solidified that day, and while it’s gone through many, many phases and remains totally complicated, it’s still my truth today.