As I am sure many, if not all of you, have heard, Shimon Perez passed away this past week, two weeks after having a stroke. Perez was an incredible man and politician in Israel, serving as President, Prime Minister, and many other political positions throughout his life.
Thursday morning, I received a phone call from the Director of Bina’s International Programs, saying Bina had been invited to Shimon’s funeral, and had a certain number of seats for their participants. Of all of the people taking part in Bina programs across Israel, my name was one of the lucky few selected to attend. That afternoon, upon returning home from school, I immediately packed an overnight bag, and headed to Tel Aviv to spend the night at another Bina apartment. We had an early wake-up, at 5 AM, so that we could be at the make-shift bus station by 6:30. The bus station was just tour busses all lined up, waiting for people going to the funeral to board. Around 7:30, everyone was on their respective busses, and we were on our way to Mount Herzel, the cemetery in Jerusalem where Shimon is now buried. This bus ride was such a crazy experience, because Israel had shut down Highway 1, the main road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and the tour busses, between 15-20 total, proceeded all the way on a shut down highway, with a police escort. Upon arriving, we all went through security, and then went to find seats. I was absolutely shocked at how close we actually were able to sit to the podium to hear the speeches.
The ceremony itself was beautiful. Many people gave speeches, including Netenyahu, Obama, Clinton, and a few others. While most speeches were in Hebrew, and I could only pick up parts, I think the most impactful speeches I heard came from his three children. Shimon Perez was truly an amazing politician and peace maker, but he was also a great father and person. While most of the speeches revolved around his political life, I think the speeches given by his children focused more on Shimon as a person, which I believe is the most important thing to focus on when talking about someone’s life and legacy.
Overall, this was truly a humbling experience to have been invited to such a meaningful day in Israel’s history. This was a once in a lifetime event that I will absolutely never forget. Thank you to Bina for allowing me to take part in such an unforgettable experience.