RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — The mayor of Rio de Janeiro said in an interview that his city’s residents must be inspired by the memory of Israel’s late former president and prime minister, Shimon Peres.
“The Cariocas must be inspired by Peres,” Mayor Marcello Crivella told O Globo newspaper, using the term to describe Rio’s native residents. “A leader who has never betrayed his principles, his values. At 93, he carried the same flag.”
“We can never give up our city. Let’s fight until the last day to see our city in peace,” he added, referring to Rio’s longtime urban violence nightmare. He also noted that Peres was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.
Crivella, Brazil’s second largest city’s fervently pro-Israel evangelical mayor, addressed several Jewish and non-Jewish leaders who attended Friday’s inauguration ceremony of a city square named after Peres in the heart of Copacabana, Rio’s most Jewish-populated neighborhood with some 3,500 families.
“Peres was an icon, he was Israel’s last living fathers of the generation who founded the State. He dedicated his 93 years to one single word: peace,” said Israel’s honorary consul, Osias Wurman during the ceremony.
He also reminded that dozens of dignitaries from a wide array of countries attended Peres’ funeral in Israel, including then-U.S. President Barack Obama and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.
“Shimon Peres left a great legacy for all peace lovers in the world. His dream was to see Arabs and Jews living as cousins. This was the dream he did not realize, but it is our mission,” the consul added.
Rio is home to an estimated 30,000-40,000 Jews, nearly one third of Brazil’s 120,000-strong Jewish community.
Urban violence has been one of the triggers to the highest-ever number of Brazilian Jews who immigrated to Israel. In 2016, some 700 Brazilians moved to Israel. In 2015, over 500 Jews also immigrated to Israel.