Reprinted from Gush Shalom
SHIMON PERES is a genius. A genius of impersonation.
All his life he has worked on his public persona. The image replaced the man. Almost all the articles written about him since he fell ill are about the imagined person, not the real one.
As the Americans like to say: He is so phony he is real.
ON THE surface, there are some similarities between him and me.
He is just 39 days older than I. He came to this country a few months after me, when both of us were 10 years old. I was sent to Nahalal, a cooperative village. He was sent to Ben Shemen, an agricultural youth village.
It can be said that both of us are optimists, and that we have been active all our lives.
That's where the similarity ends.
I CAME from Germany, where we were an affluent family. In Palestine we lost all our money very quickly. I grew up in utmost poverty. He came from Poland. His family was affluent in Palestine, too. I retained a slight German accent, he retained a very strong Polish one.
Already in his childhood there was something that attracted the ire of his schoolmates in the Jewish school of his small native town. They often beat him up. His younger brother used to defend him. "Why do they hate me so?" Shimon asked him, he recounted.
In Ben Shemen his name was still Persky. One of his teachers suggested he adopt a Hebrew name, as almost all of us did. He proposed Ben Amotz, the name of the prophet Isaiah but this name was snapped up by another pupil, Dan Tehilimsager, who also became famous. So the teacher suggested Peres, the name of a large bird.
WE FIRST met when we were 30. He was already the Director General of the Ministry of Defense, I was the Editor-in-Chief of a magazine that upset the country.
He invited me to the ministry in order to ask me not to publish an investigative article (on the sinking of an illegal refugees' ship in the harbor of Haifa by the Haganah before the founding of Israel). Our meeting was a story of mutual dislike on first sight.
My dislike was already primed before the meeting. In the war of 1948 ("the War of Independence") I was a member of a commando unit called "Samson's foxes." All of us, the combat soldiers of that war, detested members of our age-group who did not enlist. Peres did not enlist, he was sent abroad by David Ben-Gurion to buy arms. An important job -- but one that could be fulfilled by a 60-year old.
This fact hovered over Peres' head for a very long time. It explains why members of his age-group detested him and loved Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Alon and their comrades.
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