Ariel Sharon's great quality was always, always, his ability to think outside the box; a different, original way of thinking. How ironic for his mind, of all things, to betray him.
More than anything, Sharon was an original mind. From establishing the 101 commando unit, to molding Israel's legendary paratrooper brigade, to the Mitla Pass, to his romp to the Suez Canal in 1973, amidst ongoing arguments with his commanding officers. Even his decision to launch the Lebanon War – for better or worse, he was always original.
Afterwards, too, as a politician, Sharon always had an original way of thinking. He established the Likud against the wishes of every other participant in the exercise, including Menachem Begin, who tried until the very last minute to tell Sharon that the exercise was the dangerous fantasy of a political novice.
Later, as prime minister, he brought us the disengagement. Even those who didn't like him must admit that Sharon never lost his ability to surprise.
But this last surprise was unplanned. As these lines are being written, his exacting, creative mind is filled with blood.
This is now the main show
Israel's well-oiled rumor mill (too well oiled, really) has pronounced him dead, or at deaths door, every five minutes. It doesn't change much. Every sane person, right-wing or left, religious or secular, must know that there are moments that you simply must pray.
Not only for the individual in question, but also for the country. Sharon's first stroke was a preview; this is now the main show.
Even if he lives, it will clearly take time until he can return to function as prime minister. It reminds us not only of the relative fragility of an overweight 78-year-old man, but also of our almost frightening state of dependence here.
With or without Sharon, Israel will continue to exist. But it will be a different place. The political establishment will change; the goals will be different, the way in which we take sudden turns.
Sharon's fate also dictates that of the Palestinian Authority, as well as the fates of a whole slew of politicians – starting with Mahmoud Abbas, and also including Benjamin Netanyahu - as well as the fate of an election campaign, the results of which just a few hours ago appeared to be a foregone conclusion.
Dance with death
This is not the first time Sharon has been close to death. IN 1948, during the battle for Latrun, he was shot in the stomach and almost died. Were it not for another soldier who carried Sharon on his back, he would not be here now, and out history would look considerably different.
A few weeks ago I visited the prime minister at his ranch. We sat in the kitchen and he spoke about that battle. He told me he was still in touch with the soldier. Like it says in the song, love sealed in blood is not easily forgotten.
As opposed to every other Israeli leader, he never bothered to breed an heir. It simply appeared irrelevant. Even Sharon, a man whose love of history taught him not to take the idea of Israel's eternity too seriously, thought he would be with us for ever.
But it doesn't work that way. Last night, we all moved another stage in the process of maturing as a country. Israel will be forced to say good bye, one way or another, to its father figure. Even if Sharon miraculously recovers, it is now clear that he won't be here forever to protect us.
"What don't people know about you? I asked him in his last TV interview (hopefully not the last one he'll ever give). He smiled shyly. "I like romantic movies," he said.
Sharon's relationship with us in recent years has been completely romantic.
We forgave him for his past, he promised us the future. Now, it is clear that not every movie has a happy ending.
Barring one more Sharon-esque surprise, Israel woke up this morning to a completely new game. With all due respect to Amir Peretz and Bibi Netanyahu, or to the rest of the Kadima Party, Sharon is the only person that could have shouldered the kind of far reaching, dramatic processes he undertook without widespread, proven support.
No one enjoys this level of personal pride, or this type of diplomatic daring. He is the last strain in the Ben-Gurion species (and Ben-Gurion was the only man Sharon ever looked up to), who believed the job of a leader was to really lead. Not according to the latest polls, but rather with real, original thoughts about what would be best for the country.
And still, as I write all these truths, there's something inside me hoping that this is just one last spark of Sharon's sense of humor. Amongst his many good qualities he is also the only one of our leaders who is cynical enough, or sober enough, to be curious enough to read his own obituary.
If that is the case, I think we would all be happy to chalk it up to nothing more than a joke. And if not, we'd better keep praying; for him, and for all of us.