Jews all over the world are saddened by the passing of Ariel Sharon on January 11. Loved by his friends and supporters, hated by his enemies, always controversial, Mr. Sharon was a central figure in the history of Israel from its founding in 1948 until his death. He epitomized the warrior image of Israel – tough, aggressive, no nonsense.
Mr. Sharon was born Ariel Scheinermann on February 26, 1928 in an agricultural village in British-ruled Palestine called Kfar Milal. As an adult, he was dubbed “Sharon” by none other than David Ben Gurion, perhaps the most iconic individual in Israeli history. As a teenager, like many young men and women at the time, he joined the Haganah, which led the fight for Israeli nationhood. He fought against first the British, and then the Arabs. Mr. Sharon fought in and/or commanded troops in every war from 1948 – 1974 – the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, the Suez Crisis in 1956, the Six Days War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973. His tenure in the Haganah and later the Israeli Defense Forces was from 1948 – 1974. Bold and daring, some would say reckless, he was generally considered to be the greatest field commander in Israeli history and a superb military strategist. Perhaps, his signature moment came during the Yom Kippur War when he led his unit on a daring maneuver through the Sinai to the cusp of the Suez Canal. This maneuver not only encircled the 3rd Egyptian Army, but it also threatened the Canal, itself. It is generally credited with bringing about a cease fire that ended the War in Israel’s favor.
Later, he entered politics. He joined the Likud Party. When Likud was in power he held various ministerial posts, and eventually he became Prime Minister. He served as PM from 2001 – 2006. His tenure was not without controversy. He strongly advocated developing settlements in Gaza and along the West Bank. This action, while applauded by his supporters, incurred the ire of Palestinians and much of the rest of the world who saw it as exacerbating an already delicate situation in the region. He attempted to forge a controversial political alliance with India, becoming the first PM to visit the country. Also, when anti-Semitism became problematic in France he encouraged French Jews to emigrate to Israel, which incurred the ire of the French. Eventually, he came under fire for alleged fund raising irregularities. His term as PM ended when he was felled by a stroke in 2006. He had been in a vegetative state until his death.
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
In many ways, Mr. Sharon was a larger than life figure. Depending on one’s political preference, he was either a hero or a war criminal. Love him or hate him, one could not deny that he was a controversial, larger then life figure. The moniker, “warrior,” fit him to a tee. He will be missed.