Larger than life, Ariel Sharon was arguably Israel’s best known leader. Israel would not have survived without him, his controversies notwithstanding.
It speaks to the outsized life of Ariel Sharon that, upon his death, not much needs to be said. His life spoke for itself, and anyone with the faintest acquaintance with Israel over the past 50 years knows what his life said.
It said: Leader from his teenage days onward, farmer, lover of terrain, courageous soldier in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, favorite of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, in the 1950s, fighter against terrorism in the 1950s, founder of strategic settlements on the West Bank of the Jordan River after 1967, innovative general who turned the tide in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, successful transition figure from the military to politics, defense minister who lead the war against the PLO’s “state within a state” in Lebanon in 1982, indirectly responsible for the slaughter by Lebanese Christians of Muslims in the Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in 1982, exiled from the military and politics in the 1980s, builder of massive housing for Russian Jewish immigrants in the 1990s and, finally, prime minister in 2001.
Read related news coverage, "Remembering Ariel Sharon"
And . . . the man who evacuated settlements, first in the Sinai Peninsula in 1982 to uphold the peace treaty with Egypt, which still stands; then in the Gaza Strip in 2005, in hopes of securing a peace treaty with the Palestinians, which the Palestinians spurned.
Perhaps not in every detail, but the major signposts in Ariel Sharon’s life are arguably more well known than those of any Israeli leader, past or present.
To which we add but one simple meditation: Ariel Sharon’s parents came on aliyah in the 1920s, leaving Russia due to the intolerable conditions that the Bolshevik communists created for Jews.
• The Land of Israel was a refuge for Jews long before it became a modern Jewish state. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Israel was always an option for clear-thinking Jews in Europe. Sharon’s parents had no financial or admin- istrative help from a Jewish Agency or a State of Israel. They had will. They just came.
• There is no telling what the unheralded observance of the difficult mitzvah of uprooting oneself from one’s mother country and mother tongue to live on the holy soil of Israel can yield. In the case of the Shneinermans [Sharon’s original family name], it yielded a son who, whatever his failings, protected or saved the lives of millions of Jews.
• Hatred, such as communism’s for Jews and Judaism, does not inevitably lead to helplessness or tragedy. Just the opposite may occur.
The Land of Israel should be more than a Birthright trip, more than a great vacation, more than a repository of tzedakah, more than a place for a year or two of study, more than a source of pride, of worry, of exasperation, and more than a cynosure of Jewish hopes and prayers. Residence in the Land of Israel, and now in the State of Israel, should be a live option for Jews everywhere.
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