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“He was a person that once he decided, he carried it out — decide and execute…Today, we have people who don’t decide and don’t execute.”

“There hasn’t been a leader like him in Israel since the days of the Maccabee.”

“The decisiveness, the charisma, the assumption of responsibility. The leader who takes responsibility is good, whether he is right or he is wrong.”

“Every individual who reconsiders in his life and can change opinions can serve as a role model. To say, O.K., we did something and let’s see if we can do something different, or do it differently — that’s what made him so courageous.”

Israelis interviewed at Ariel Sharon’s funeral, New York Times, January 13, 2013

Ariel Sharon passed away this past Shabbat, on January 11, 2014. The Jewish world lost a hero.

He was a hero of the Jewish people because he understood the responsibility of Jewish leadership in times of grave danger.  In 1973, when everything seemed lost, Ariel Sharon gave us hope.  When terror gripped the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Netanya, Ariel Sharon found a way to help Israel heal, to begin to feel safe again. 

Ariel Sharon was among the greatest generals of the 20th century and, because of his experience as a warrior, became a leader capable of bringing peace to his people and to the region. These are the requirements of leadership for a great and ancient people at a time of danger. 

My first memory of Ariel Sharon was the Yom Kippur War in 1973. I remember the sense of desolation we all felt at seeing the hopes and dreams of 1967 collapse and I remember the very real possibility of physical annihilation.  I vividly recall the relief and pride we felt when Ariel Sharon, in a bold and unexpected move, crossed the Suez Canal and encircled Egypt’s Third Army. 

Ultimately, it is the ability to act, to think creatively, and to find options where there seemed to be no options that mark a great general and an extraordinary leader.

Ariel Sharon identified, clearly stated and acted on a great truth that no one else seemed ready to accept but that has shaped the new reality of Israeli politics.  On the one hand, with some exceptions, the Arab world and especially the “Arab street” have never accepted the existence of the Jewish State in the Middle East and were unlikely to do so far into the future.  But Ariel Sharon also understood that we cannot possibly exist as a Jewish and a democratic country without creating two-states for two peoples.

Ariel Sharon decided to unilaterally create new and secure borders of his choice for Israel because the collapse of the Oslo process and the second intifada showed that negotiations were unlikely to bring peace or security.  I believe that if he had lived in health to lead the country he had the strength and the courage and the fierce resolve to end the missile attacks from Gaza and ultimately bring the peace that Israel has always yearned for.

He would have made it work because he was a man who could be depended upon to carry out both his promises and his threats.  His friends understood this, but more importantly, his enemies understood this and feared and respected him because of it.  He was a man to be trusted and to be feared and, unfortunately, in the world today these are absolute requirements for leadership in an environment of great danger and chaos.

We miss Ariel Sharon and his leadership and pray that his family and our brothers and sisters in Israel will find comfort among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.