No Room for Small Dreams is the autobiographical work of Shimon Peres, who was both President and Prime Minister of Israel, and a Nobel Laureate along with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin for efforts to create peace in the Middle East.
Shimon is a revered figure in Israel for his early work as a statesman and policymaker who drove the creation of strategic projects including the construction of the Israeli aerospace industry. But what sets his autobiography apart from others of the period is, in my opinion, the scope of his ambitions when drawn against his humble origins.
Peres’ dedication and lofty ambitions throughout life lie in stark contrast to his incredibly modest background. In 1934, the then ten-year-old Shimon emigrated to the British mandate of Palestine from his native Poland, and the extended family he left behind who would later be annihilated in the Holocaust.
In many ways, this journey has influenced my work with the Chief of Staff Association (CSA), not least because Peres was aide-de-camp to the founding father of Israel, David Ben Gurion, the primary founder of the State of Israel.
Peres was a bold and audacious young man who, once driving Ben Gurion to a peace conference, impressed upon him so much that he became Ben Gurion’s Chief of Staff. This position allowed him to initiate many important national projects, which bolstered his rise to leader of the nation and then forging a dynamic country out of thin air.
I also saw parallels between the early environment in which Peres’ character was shaped and my own personal journey. “My parents raised me without many boundaries or limits,” Peres wrote,”they never told me what to do, always trusting that my curiosity would lead me down the right path.”
Peres also commented that in “my youngest years, when I decided to put on shows and make speeches in front of friends, I received nothing but encouragement.” This makes me think of my own parents, who offered the encouragement necessary for me to strike out on new challenges throughout life.
Peres remarked that to be doled thus made him into “a curious boy” with a sense of “a bright future ahead,” and that there was a sign of “something bigger” in store for him. “To my schoolmates, it made me something of an outcast, one so clearly unlike the others,” but he was nevertheless “unbowed by the doubt of others,” and this too resonates with my personal experience of high school.
Beyond this, as the foreword (written by his children) mentions: “he dedicated his life to his never-ending masterpiece, building a better future,” and I find in this the ultimate challenge for anyone put into a position of responsibility and leadership – to dream of a better future and lead that dream to materialization.
With much time spent on kibbutzim, his gritty determination and commitment to his Zionist cause are palpable not just in his early days but well into the later stages of his life. In 2007, when he was sworn as president, a child asked the aged Peres why he would not take a rest. He replied: “Why do I serve? I suppose I never considered the alternative.”
Peres then added that “Zionism has always been at the centre of my identity, and service to it is a requirement for its success.” I find in Shimon Peres’ tirelessness the due inspiration for my own life, to continue working hard throughout life, realizing grander ambitions, and remaining humble in those pursuits, because I too have never considered the alternative.
No Room for Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination, and the Making of Modern Israel. Hardcover – September 12, 2017by Shimon Peres (Author). Available on Amazon.
This is part of a series of book reviews by Dr Aron Ping D’Souza.