I met Arik in different zones of fighting, but more than anything I will remember his contribution to the battle for securing the Jewish people's future in Israel and in the Diaspora.
His decision to establish the Conversion Division within the Prime Minister's Office was a groundbreaking move which reflected his concern for the Jewish people's future, his dissatisfaction with the very few conversions conducted until then and the reasons for that.
I felt his personal identification with every single immigrant, every male and female soldier, who were not considered Jews here of all places and were faced with all kinds of difficulties while seeking to convert.
After we initiated, together with Professor Benny Ish-Shalom and Rabbi Druckman, the Nativ course for the conversion of more IDF soldiers as part of their military service, Prime Minister Sharon made sure to be constantly involved in the project, demanded regular updates and summoned discussions once every few weeks.
When a person of authority shrugged or created unnecessary difficulties, the prime minister "pounded" the table in his own way. Everyone understood. The absence of leadership involvement of this kind on this issue as well is felt, unfortunately, every day and every hour.
Rabbi Aviner once told me about a rebbe who met with a Jew with whom he went through the horrors of the Holocaust. When the Jew left, one of the rebbe's followers came into the room and asked him: "Rabbi, how can you sit for so many hours with a Jew who doesn’t have a beard?"
The rebbe looked at him and said, "When this Jew reaches the Master of the Universe after 120 years, he will ask him: 'Jew, where is your beard?!' When you reach the Master of the Universe after 120 years, he will ask you: 'Bearded man, where is the Jew in you?'"
God will not have to ask Arik Sharon anything.
Knesset Member Elazar Stern is a retired major-general and former head of the IDF Personnel Directorate