News that Shimon Peres had suffered a serious stroke last week struck a deep and sad chord for Israelis. They never united behind Peres the politician, who served as prime minister twice without being elected. They came to revere him, however, when he served as president.

The hospitalization of the 93-year-old Peres evoked a greater response than the final chapters of other countries' leaders because he is the "last man standing" — the last of the iconic group of men and women who surrounded David Ben-Gurion in the years before and immediately after Israel's independence. Israelis are losing their only remaining "father figure."

When Ben-Gurion died in December 1973, just weeks after the catastrophic Yom Kippur War, one Israeli scholar and novelist noted that Israelis watched his funeral on TV "as if they were watching their own." If there was consolation to be had then, it was that Israel was an unquestionable success with a bright future.