“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”
The earth has now settled on the grave of Ariel (Arik) Sharon, the mourners have driven away and the world still turns. Life goes on. What shall I say of Israel’s 11th Prime Minister? How will History recall him?
Arik Sharon was a man of contradictions. The man responsible for much of the Israeli settlement of the Gaza Strip and in Judaea and Samaria was also the man responsible for the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and the destruction of the Jewish villages of Gush Katif (aka “The Disengagement” of 2005). The man who oversaw the uprooting of the Israeli town of Yamit in Sinai was also the man who led Israeli troops to a victory snatched from the jaws of defeat at the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur War.
Both the Extreme Left and the hard-liners of the Right, instead of remembering him for his good deeds, seem to have chosen to remember him for the evil he committed – and, naturally, in many cases, the deeds are one and the same, what is good in the eyes of one side being evil in the eyes of the other. Those of the Left approved his uprooting of Israeli settlements, but, with his death, remember him as the man who ruthlessly crushed Arab terrorism, who led the IDF far into Lebanon, as far as Beirut – and vilify him as being responsible for the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in the Lebanon, even though it was ordered and carried out by Christian Phalangist militias, in revenge for the massacre of Christians at Damour. They also claim that he provoked the Second Intifada (the “Al-Aqsa Intifada) by his visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000 – although Palestinian leaders such as Marwan Barghouti and Yasser Arafat’s widow, Suha, have admitted that the 2nd Intifada was planned much earlier that summer. The visit, at the head of a delegation of Likud Knesset Members, was seen as an assertion of Jewish rights over the Mount amidst claims that the Government of the time was preparing to concede Israeli sovereignty over this holiest of all Jewish holy places.
The Right approved his ruthlessness in dealing with “Palestinian” terrorism, but to this day cannot forgive his betrayal of his voters, the turnabout on his election promises and the unilateral withdrawal from the whole of the Gaza Strip, resulting in the expulsion of the Jewish residents from their homes in Gush Katif. Many of them claimed that the turnabout was a result of the pressure that Sharon was feeling because of investigations of corrupt dealings he was allegedly involved in and that he hoped to win the favour of the left-leaning Media (which was pressing for his indictment) by handing Gaza over to the “Palestinians”.
In the heat of the “Disengagement”, to which I was absolutely opposed, I too was ready, in my anger, to believe that Sharon had seized upon this opportunity as a way of diverting attention from the corruption charges. In retrospect, however, I find it hard to accept that a man whose entire life, till then, had been devoted to defending the Land of Israel and its people, would knowingly, deliberately, endanger both in such a way and for such a reason.
The “Disengagement” has indeed proved to be a terrible mistake. All it accomplished was to place a strategic piece of land in the hands of the Hamas terrorists, who daily fire rockets into Israel’s heartland. Most of these attacks aren’t reported by the main stream media, because, fortunately, most of the missiles do not cause loss of life or limb. It is possible that Sharon, had he not been struck down shortly afterwards by a stroke, would have come to recognise this mistake for what it was.
I had a dispute on another blog with people who thought me naive to believe either that Sharon’s intentions were good, or that he might have repented.
I said “might have repented”. I do not claim to know what was in his heart. Nor can I – or any of us – know what thoughts might have been passing through his head, unspoken, unexpressed, during those eight years that he lay in limbo, in a coma, neither alive nor dead. There are those who claim that, if Sharon had repented, God would have found a way to let the fact of his repentance be known to his sons, so that they could apologise in their father’s name to the families expelled from Gush Katif.
I do not know what the Almighty would, or would not have done. I do know that He weighs our good deeds against our bad deeds – and if Arik Sharon wrought evil, he also did a lot of good.
I also know that whether or not we know what was in Sharon’s heart is irrelevant now, because, at this very moment, Ariel Sharon is standing before the Judgement Seat of the One who does know the unspoken secrets of men’s hearts.
It only remains then, to repeat the traditional Jewish response on receiving news of a death.
Blessed is the True Judge. ברוך דיין האמת (Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet).
The blessing is good. The very best response to the news of his death.
You’d be surprised (or perhaps not) at the vindictiveness of some of the other responses I have seen (from JEWS), on both sides of the political spectrum.