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Israeli President Shimon Peres paid a celebratory visit to DreamWork Animation’s Valley studios Friday, where studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg presented him with original art work from the film The Prince of Egypt.
In a short address, Peres reminded the crowd of the contributions the Jewish people had made to Hollywood’s founding, spoke of how today “children believe the actors more than the politicians,” and said that in politics — as opposed to film — “what happens after the happy ending is so demanding and confusing.”
Hollywood’s creative workers, he said, “come from the greatest world in our life: The world of the dream.”
Following his remarks to the DreamWorks audience, Peres lunched with Katzenberg, Michael Oren, Billy Crystal, Michael Lynton, Arnon Milchan, Ron Meyer, Leslie Moonves, Peter Rice, Rich Ross, Tom Rothman, Haim Saban, Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Marvin Hier, David Siegel and Andy Spahn.
Peres’ DreamWorks visit came midway through a four-day trip to Los Angeles. Thursday night a crowd of 1,400 Jewish community and other civic leaders—including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Richard Sandler, chairman of the Jewish Federation—welcomed the 88-year-old president to the Beverly Hilton. The evening’s highlight was an hour-long onstage conversation between Peres, who shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his part in working out the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, and television journalist Campbell Brown.
Peres downplayed any speculation about a split between the Obama Administration and the Israeli government about how to handle the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “While everybody is looking for differences, the basis is common and agreed,” Peres said. “If we have to choose, let’s start with the nonviolent with no war beginning, but saying very clearly that all other options are on the table. . .I don’t think anyone would suggest you start by shooting.”
The Israeli president—the world’s oldest serving non-monarchial head of state—was generally upbeat about the long-term prospects for Middle Eastern peace. He told Brown that, “the problem of the Middle East is poverty more than politics” and that while what has come to be called the Arab spring may pose short-term complications for the Jewish state, the process ultimately would bring those countries culturally closer to the West.
Before arriving in Los Angeles, Peres stopped in Menlo Park to visit the headquarters of Facebook. Israel, despite its diminutive size, has emerged as something of a digital super power, a development Peres encouraged during one of his three terms as the country’s prime minister. During that period he became his country’s first leader to establish a web site for his office. In Menlo Park this week, he launched his personal Facebook page with the company’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, as his first friend. Peres said he hopes to use the page to create a dialogue with Arabs around the world.
In an online conversation with Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, the president said, “The matter of peace is no longer the business of governments but the business of people. Today, the people are governing the governments. And when they begin to talk to each other, they are surprised. We should be friends.”
In a subsequent question and answer session with Facebook employees, Peres told an engineer what he could do to promote peace: “What you are doing is convincing people they don’t have reason to hate.”
After observing the Jewish Sabbath Saturday, Peres will breakfast Sunday morning with a group of Los Angeles’ Latino and Jewish leaders.
Though this visit is the Israeli head of state’s first to Los Angeles since he began his seven-year presidential term in 2007, Peres actually has a personal tie to Hollywood. Actress Lauren Bacall is his first cousin. Both were born with the family name Persky, though Peres’ parents Hebraized their surname when they immigrated to Palestine and Bacall changed hers when she went on the stage.
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