Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres is a biographical documentary of one of Israel’s greatest leaders.
I’m several months late to watching the documentary but I decided to do so in honor of Israel’s 75th birthday on 5 Iyar, which in the Jewish calendar is known as Yom Ha’atzmaut. If you’re familiar with Shimon Peres, there’s a chance that you probably won’t learn anything new. Regardless, George Clooney’s narration and Peres’ own comments still make it worth watching.
Peres left his childhood home in present-day Belarus and immigrated to then-British Mandatory Palestine in 1934. Borders have changed but he grew up with a Polish accent. This didn’t stop the teasing by classmates after arriving in the 1930s. Meanwhile, David Ben-Gurion, who would later become Israel’s first prime minister, quickly became one of his heroes. It’s because of this that Peres would serve some sort of role in the Israeli government dating back to its 1948 founding. When other countries placed an arms embargo on the Middle East, Ben-Gurion placed it on him to find a way to get weapons for the war.
Shimon Peres never served as a soldier during his lifetime. Perhaps this hurt him during the long-term in terms of political ambitions. He only served two terms as Israeli Prime Minister, one of the highest offices in the land, while previously serving as acting PM in the late 1970s. Interestingly enough, two of those terms were preceded by his Labor Party rival, Yitzhak Rabin. Until watching, I never really knew about the extent of their rivalry. Anyway, his term in the 1990s allowed for the Israeli economy to stabilize following very high inflation rates.
Peres died in 2016, some time after Richard Trank captured him on camera. This film runs just over two hours but he gave them more than 50 hours. This film already covers a lot about his life so I’m curious what will happen with the remaining footage. Up until shortly before his death, Peres kept busy. There are those who will happily retire but not Peres. If there was a way to extend his presidential term beyond 2014, he would have extended it. Alas, he did talks and whatnot up until just before his passing. Here’s a guy who won the Nobel Peace Prize, served two terms as Prime Minister, and finally, Israeli’s ninth president.
Given that Peres was involved with the government, he as a lot to say about building up the military and nuclear program. He played a key role in ending the 1956 Suez Crisis thanks to working with France and Britain. Following the end of the crisis, there was not another terror attack until the Six-Day War in 1967. The Yom Kippur War would follow in 1973, leading to Golda Meir’s resignation. As Minister of Defense in Rabin’s government, Peres and military leaders organized the hostage rescue at Entebbe. While all the hostages were successfully rescued, one Israeli fighter, Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu, died. And then there was the Israel-Jordan peace treaty and the historic Oslo Peace Accords. But before the historic treaties and accords, there was the London Agreement. The London Agreement might have led to peace but Yitzhak Shamir shot it down.
As I watched Benjamin Netanyahu discuss his appreciation for Peres following Yoni’s burial, I can’t help but think about Netanyahu’s current judicial coup, let alone including a racist in the Israeli government. What would Peres think about this? My guess is that Shimon Peres would be on the right side of history. He would be trying to prevent authoritarian control of Israel. His granddaughter, Mika Almog, recently appeared in a USA 4 Israeli Democracy video on YouTube. Sadly, the great Israeli statesman is no longer with us. Even if Netanyahu shares kind remarks about Peres in the film, he is as far from Peres when it comes to politics.
When we talk about legacy, Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres is a beautiful example of what it means to leave something behind. It might not bring anything new to the documentary itself but it’s still insightful and informative. Even if one thinks they already know quite a bit about Peres, people probably still learn something they didn’t know before.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Richard Trank
NARRATOR: George Clooney
FEATURING: Shimon Peres, Tony Blair, Benjamin Netanyahu, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Barbra Streisand
Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres is currently streaming on Netflix. Grade: 4/5
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