STOUT AND HANDSOME LAD
None of the journalists, men of politics and everybody who was asked about it found it difficult to name a man of year in Israel. Their unanimous answer was Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
I must admit I have always (and shall, too) respected this handsome stout man. Everything began in October 1973 when he with his division disobeyed the order of commander of the front to seize a strip of land 3 km deep on the western bank of the canal. He advanced on all 30 km, forced a crossing of the Suez Canal in the place he had himself prepared three years prior to the war. Minister of Defense Dayan was already talking about the collapse of third Temple, but a disgraced general radically changed the course of war and reached the most brilliant victory in the history of our state.
Division #155 (commander - Rafael Eitan) was fighting in the north. Nonetheless, my "Zelda" (as well as many others) had the inscription in white paint, "Arik - melekh Israel" ("Arik - king of Israel").
I met him in person in November 1977. I was called up for reserve service. Having received an "after" (free evening), I rushed to Tel-Aviv to hear a Japanese girl-violinist Miduri performing Chaikovsky. Naturally, there were no tickets at the cash desk of "Palace of culture". I was sadly standing near the entrance awaiting a chap with a spare ticket. Arik showed up all of a sudden. Only his spouse Lily was about him. There was no suite (he was then the Minister of Agriculture), no bodyguards. He, somehow, paid attention to me at once.
- Who are you? Where are you from?
- I am sergeant... I stood to attention and reported though nobody demanded that.
- Why are you so sad, sonny?
- They've sold out, and I am so much keen on Chaikovsky's concert.
- I hear it, - said Arik hinting at my Russian accent, - come with me.
- Let the soldier in, - he ordered a ticker-collector and nobody dared to contradict him.
I was listening to Chaikovsky sitting on the stairs. Returning at night to Golan heights I was gratefully recalling the minister-music lover. Later, meeting him at concerts and in the theatre "Gesher" I was tempted to remind him about that meeting but didn't dare to.
Over his political carrier Sharon has won multitude of friends and followers, as well as deadly enemies. The media left elite hated and feared him. They have used all curse words to characterize Sharon, "fascist" and "murderer" being among "mild" ones. He was obstructed to become a chief of general staff, but he became Minister of Defense. Somebody did not want him as a government member - he became Prime Minister. Sharon entered a big policy in 1973. He created "Likud" and promoted its winning the elections of 1977... Shamir and Netanyahu were afraid and tried to get rid of him, but up to his losing the elections in 1992 he invariably joined the government.
Sharon is one of a few Israeli statesmen able to reason in strategic terms. Destroying Palestinian terrorist nests in Gaza strip in 1970 he realized the scope of danger Arab terror presents to Israel. Arik took the decision to exterminate Palestinian armed gangs and their leaders being the commander of southern military district, and started carrying it out in June 1982.
In the wake of the Lebanon campaign Arafat and his accomplices were forced to run to a distant Tunisia to be supervised by local secret services. They had vegetated there until Peres and company took Abu-Amar away from the dump, gave him a territory, money, weapons and started talks with him.
Sharon is a pupil of Israel's founder David Ben-Gurion. He does not belong to the old revisionist guard and cares little about romanticism of Zhabotinsky. That's why he is a stranger in "Likud" and has to struggle for his place on the top often resorting to quite non-gentlemen means.
Sharon has deserved an honorable place in the newest history of Jewish nation and State of Israel. No one shall be able to deny his decisive role in turning TSAKHAL from a badly armed and trained militia into the mightiest in the region army. Brilliant operations in Bir-Gafgaf (1967) and crossing the Suez Canal (1973) are studied in military academies throughout the world.
Jewish people treat their heroes badly. Historians are most likely to blame Sharon for every mistake, every blunder. I shall always remember him standing on the bank of Big Bitter Lake with a bloodstained bandage around his head.
"Weekly news", Israel