JERUSALEM—Optimism is not generally a word associated with the Middle East these days. Just a few hundred miles away from here, there’s the horrible civil war in Syria, where the devastating bombardment of Aleppo this week recalled the worst tragedies of World War II. And the fighting in Iraq, where a major new front is about to open up as international forces attempt to push the barbaric Islamic State out of the key stronghold of Mosul. And right next door in Egypt, a shattered economy and authoritarian crackdown by the military regime that rose out of the dashed hopes of the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions.
Which made it all the more striking—and more than a little melancholy—to attend the state funeral of the late Shimon Peres today in Israel’s national cemetery. At 93, Peres was the last living link to the era of Israel’s founders, a former prime minister, president, foreign minister and just about everything else, and the occasion was seen by the global dignitaries who came from all over to mourn him as “the end of the era of giants,” as his successor in the largely ceremonial role of Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, put it. Peres was a giant, but of a particular sort: He was a dreamer, a believer in the future even when his hopes for peace were frustrated again and again. In short, he was an optimist.
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