Monday, September 21, 2020 12:00 PM
Chemi Peres: “My father never lost the understanding that Israel is a lone tree, yet it should also be part of the regenerating forest.”
Members of the Peres family with KKL-JNF chairman at the Peres Pathways Park cornerstone laying ceremony . (Photo: Jorge Novominsky, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)
On Monday, September 14, 2020, four years to the Hebrew date of Shimon Peres’s death, KKL-JNF and the Peres family laid the cornerstone for the Peres Pathways Park (Mish’olei Peres) in Ben Shemen Forest.
Four years after the death of the 9th President of Israel, Shimon Peres Z”L, KKL-JNF and the Peres family laid the cornerstone for the Peres Pathways Park, named after the former President and his wife. Participating in the ceremony were KKL-JNF Chairman Daniel Atar, members of the Peres family, friends and former associates of Peres, and KKL-JNF professionals from its central region.
KKL-JNF is spearheading the establishment of the Peres Pathways Park - a geographical unit of Ben Shemen Forest - and has invested NIS 4.5 million in the project. The park will include an array of cycling and hiking trails geared to varying levels of ability, and observation points. Its focal point will be the thematic trail that tells the story of Shimon Peres in connection to the landscape, combining excerpts from the poems and letters of the former president with information on his work, vision, and his personal connection to the region and the Ben Shemen Youth Village in particular.
Daniel Atar, the Chairman of KKL-JNF, said at the ceremony, "Shimon Peres's love for his country, for his people, for his wife, stood out in all his actions. Even when he was on top of the world as he received the Nobel Peace Prize, he began with the words "I am a graduate of Ben Shemen,” out of respect for the place that shaped his character. Therefore, when we made the decision to commemorate him, it was clear to us that the path would pass through the village where one of the great leaders of the Jewish people in modern times was born anew, [the village of] of the man who became prime minister and president, who dared to fantasize about achieving tremendous things.
“I loved Shimon very much. More than once he was a guest in my home for personal meetings, where he looked out at the view of the Gilboa, tasted the warm bread rolls my wife prepared, and knew how to say a good word and to articulate them at every meeting. It is a great privilege for me to stand here today, the day after the Hebrew date of the death of Shimon Peres - as the chairman of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, as a friend of Shimon Peres - to commemorate him and lay the cornerstone at the place where the story of Shimon and Sonia's everlasting love began."
Prof. Tzvia (Tziki) Walden, the daughter of Shimon Peres, said at the ceremony, "In these difficult days of a raging severe epidemic, the place where we are now is a blessed respite. For our family, the Peres Pathways have a special meaning because here our parents met, and thanks to this place, we came into the world. Thank you to KKL-JNF Chairman Daniel Atar and the entire team for this blessed initiative.”
Chemi Peres, son of Shimon Peres and Chairman of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, said, "I would like to thank each and every one of the people who are involved in this initiative. Thank you to Abba's friends who did not forget and do not forget, and to staff members who will not forget Abba and his contribution to the country. My father never lost the understanding that Israel is a lone tree, yet it should also be part of the regenerating forest. In the end, if we know how to be a forest, then we will always be able to survive and flourish and grow and deal with our problems ... Abba was a type of tree that knew how to deepen its roots but also strived to reach upwards and fix the world."
Peres Pathways Park will be established in the Ben Shemen Forest, one of the oldest and most significant forests in the country, which serves the residents of the central Israeli Gush Dan region and its surrounding areas, and receives over 1.5 million visitors a year. The park, which will be accessible to people with disabilities, is expected to encompass the history of the area and of the first forest planted here - Herzl Forest, as well as the story of Shimon Peres and his wife in relation to the area, culture and knowledge of the land. There will be explanations and demonstrations of regional ecological processes and leadership training. The park is expected to accommodate independent hikers, organized groups from Israel and abroad, cyclists, horseback riders, and residents of the immediate area. Motor vehicles will not be permitted on the trail.
Planned activities for the park include stations depicting different periods in Shimon Peres' life, with the incorporation of digital media and online games and quizzes. The park will be divided into separate compounds and entranceways - the main entrance to the park will be from the Monkey’s Recreation Area (it will include parking for cars and buses). There will also be an entrance from the area of Ben Shemen cemetery where the late Sonia Peres is buried, an entrance opposite a holiday village (with limited parking for private vehicles), and an entrance from the Ben Shemen Youth Village (for pedestrians only).
Ben Shemen is closely connected to the life and work of the late President Shimon Peres, who regarded the Ben Shemen Youth Village as his second home. Here is where Peres spent his formative years, here is where he met the love of his life and married her. Peres never stopped loving the place so dear to his heart. Throughout his life, he would emphasize his love for the Ben Shemen Youth Village at every opportunity.