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'He Was a Great Man of Israel.' Shimon Peres Laid to Rest

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JERUSALEM, Israel – More than one-third of the world's nations sent presidents, kings, princes and senior officials to pay tribute to former Israeli President Shimon Peres. The pioneer of modern Israel was laid to rest Friday in Jerusalem.

Israel's main highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was closed twice on Friday to and from the airport to secure the route for the dignitaries' travel.  

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin delivered his address in Hebrew but spoke briefly in English to the guests from around the world.

"Shimon lived a life of purpose; he soared to incredible heights; he swept so many with his vision and his hope," Netanyahu said.

"He was a great man of Israel; he was a great man of the world," he said. "But we find hope in his legacy, as does the world."

President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton headed a large delegation from the U.S. and were the only two non-Israelis to eulogize Israel's last founding father.

In his eulogy during the funeral, Clinton described a meeting in which Israeli and Arab children sang John Lennon's "Imagine" together.

"He imagined all the things the rest of us could do. He started life as Israel's brightest student, became its best teacher and ended up its biggest dreamer," Clinton said of Peres.

"He lived 93 years in a state of constant wonder over the unbelievable potential of all the rest of us to rise above our wounds, our resentments, our fears to make the most of today and claim the promise of tomorrow," he added.

President Obama was the last speaker.  He said the presence of (Palestinian Authority) President Abbas at the funeral was a "gesture and a reminder of the unfinished business of peace."

"I could not be more honored to be in Jerusalem to say farewell to my friend Shimon Peres, who showed us that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist ideal; a free life in a homeland regained; a secure life in a nation that can defend itself by itself; a full life in friendship with nations who can be counted on as allies always; a bountiful life driven by the simple pleasure of family and by big dreams," Obama said.

Abbas led a delegation of Palestinians to the funeral. He was the only Arab leader to do so. It was the first time he was in Jerusalem since he met with Netanyahu in 2010.

Not so surprising, Hamas condemned Abbas for attending and had hateful words for Peres.

"Hamas condemns Mahmoud Abbas for attending the funeral of the criminal Shimon Peres and consider it a disregard for the blood of the martyrs and the suffering of the Palestinian people," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

CBN News Senior Editor John Waage said he believes Peres' legacy as an "optimist and a dreamer" would continue "because he legitimately represents the Israeli people I think in that regard."

But the peace process is in trouble.

"I think it's in a world of hurt right now," Waage said in an interview with Jerusalem Dateline. "Every time Israel has traded land for peace and for promises of peace they have gotten rockets. And there's no sign on the horizon that anything different is going to come about."

"And the other question is who will take the place of Shimon Peres on the left in the peace camp? There's nobody that has the gravitas that he has in being part of the building of the Israeli state," he said. "And so they really have it a challenge to make it their message to come across in this very dangerous world where the Middle East is blowing up in different places."

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel full-time for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism, then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91, and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and the