In memory of my parents

Opinion: Ariel Sharon, one of Israel's most revered generals and its 11th prime minister, fought like a lion his entire life, and his beloved wife Lily stood steadfast beside him

Gilad Sharon|
This may be a time of events of Biblical proportions, except that there is no hero of Biblical proportions. Someone who would crush the whole company of nefarious Medians and Amaleks who are yipping at our heels from the north, south, and east.
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There is no king in Israel today, only pretenders who have no shame and no self-respect. Instead of taking responsibility, they run from it like from fire. But responsibility is like honor turned around. The more you run from it, the more it chases after you, catches up to you, and grabs onto you. You’re left with it stuck to you, with the added humiliation of having tried to escape it.
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Lily and Ariel Sharon
Lily and Ariel Sharon
Lily and Ariel Sharon
(Photo: Yossi Roth)
Dad, you saw the horrors of the War of Independence, when our very existence was in danger. You saw the Arab terrorism in the 1950s that threatened to destroy our young nation. You saw us besieged from all sides before the Six Day War, when Israel was no more than fifteen kilometers wide in the middle and its leaders had lost their self-confidence. And the shock on the faces of the soldiers and political leaders on Yom Kippur, when people began talking about the destruction of the Third Temple. And the Galilee threatened and struck by the PLO terrorists in Lebanon before the First Lebanon War. And the fear that gripped Israel in the early 2000s when buses were being blown up every other day. You saw all this and you didn’t remain on the sidelines.
You fought, and you were severely wounded, and you got up and fought again, always on the front lines, always where the outcome of the battle was being decided, always leading the campaign. You took responsibility. No one placed it on your shoulders; you took it on yourself and changed reality.
You were only 25 when you changed reality for the first time as the commander of Unit 101 and the paratroopers. You provided a military response that the IDF had never known before, striking at terror and at the armies of Syria, Jordan, and Egypt that were behind it. In the Yom Kippur War, you again changed reality when you crossed the Suez Canal and turned failure and defeat into a resounding victory.
In 1982, you did it again, removing the threat to the Galilee for many years to come. It took you a week to gain victory, without any agreement or mediators, but by triumphing on the battlefield. After another ten weeks, the terrorists were kicked out of Beirut. Now the Galilee is under fire again. Is there anyone today who can do what you did?
When you launched Operation Defensive Shield you changed reality once more. You had to pressure the army, because as prime minister you didn’t have any “Arik Sharon” behind you as Ben-Gurion had had. But it worked, and after that things looked entirely different.
Your victories were sharp, clear, and quick.
גלעד שרוןGilad SharonPhoto: Yaron Brener
And when there were foul-ups, and there are always foul-ups in a war, you didn’t hide behind anyone else. Even if it meant losing your position as defense minister, and seemingly your whole political career, you wouldn’t allow your attorneys at the commission of inquiry to question and embarrass an army officer who had said something very inaccurate despite the serious harm it could cause you. You didn’t want anyone to be able to say that you were hiding behind the army. That’s who you were, the finest of men, clear-headed and strong. A true leader, not someone posing as a leader with a disclaimer stating that the presenter is an actor, not a leader.
The national pain and sorrow at the moment are so great that they are hard to contain. We feel uncomfortable grieving for smaller private losses. But we do so anyway; there’s enough pain to go around.
And Mom, like Penelope, the wisest and most lovely of women who waited for Ulysses, the resourceful hero who overcame so many hardships, you were a queen waiting for her champion to return from battle. And you gave him the best reason to come home. Even when you fell ill, you remained as beautiful and lucid as ever, and you accepted the imminent end with utter composure. And you, Dad, the lion with so much experience of battle, stood there helpless, facing an enemy you had never encountered before: tiny cells that decided to multiply at an incredible rate, spreading throughout her body until they consumed her. A hero of Biblical proportions, tragedies, and a love story—it all seemed to come straight out of Greek mythology. Everything larger than life, everything taken to the limit, the bad days and the joyous days, the days of bitter combat and the days of glory.
A whole life, a full life, a life worth living.
  • Gilad Sharon is the son of Ariel Sharon, one of Israel's most revered generals and its 11th prime minister.
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