January 12, 2006 -- La Canada Valley Sun
"WHAT WARRIORS DO"
By Anita Susan Brenner
By Anita Susan Brenner
The pain is unending, impossible to heal. These were the words of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon was commenting on the death, 34 years earlier, of his 11-year-old son.
The loss of his firstborn, in 1967, was one of several tragedies in Sharon's life; it was preceded by the death of the boy's mother, Margalit, in an automobile accident.
With each bereavement, Ariel Sharon, the warrior, was faced with a choice. It was the same choice faced by every grief-stricken individual. Would he go on with life? Or would he give up?
It is the same choice for all of us. In Tel Aviv or in La Cañada. After the Twin Towers. At a mine disaster.
Last month, I met a 95-year-old man. When I learned that he was a Holocaust survivor, I asked him, "How do you manage to live in the world?" The gentleman tapped his finger on the table, I think he did it for emphasis, and shouted, "Faith!"
Everyone finds their own answers, but when a public figure, like Ariel Sharon, faces bereavement, I always want to know, "Where does he get his strength?"
Ariel Sharon made the choice to live fully. He remarried. He fathered children. He became the doting grandfather.
He was known to be tough. Tough on the enemy. A strong opponent at home. "Even the sheep are afraid of me," he once said.
He was also a charismatic leader. For years, Sharon opposed the formation of a Palestinian state and supported the expansion of Jewish settlements in the former Palestinian territories.
Not everyone agreed with him.
In 1999, the third tragedy struck. Sharon's second wife, Lily, came down with cancer. Through the short months of her treatment, she encouraged her husband to continue with his work. When her condition worsened, he stayed with her in the hospital. Just like folks in cancer wards all over the country. All over the world.
At night, he slept a chair by her bed. In the morning, he would go to work, like she wanted. No different than other patients' wives or husbands, at Norris, at City of Hope, at UCLA.
One night, while they were at the hospital, Lily and Ariel's house burned down.
When Lily Sharon died on March 25, 2000, Ariel Sharon was again faced with the impossible pain of bereavement.
The bereaved live differently in the world. There are more choices. The choice to live or not to live. Choices about how to live. It is not surprising that Ariel Sharon began to envision another solution.
In 2001, a year after Lily's death, Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel. He was 73 years old. The warrior was reborn as a statesman.
And then, the magic happened.
This warrior came up with a plan for peace. He wanted to keep all of Israel's children, including his grandchildren, safe.
Sharon reversed his opposition to the Palestinian state. He reversed his insistence on maintaining the settlements. The new plan for peace provided for the formation of a Palestinian state, withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza and the construction of a security perimeter between Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Not everyone agreed with him. Last summer, after nearly four decades in the Gaza, amid riots and violence, the settlers were withdrawn from their settlements by Sharon's government.
Not everyone agreed with Sharon, but many of us had hope. If anyone could pull off a compromise, it would be Ariel Sharon. The warrior-turned-statesman, the warrior-turned-peacemaker.
Israeli journalist, Allison Kaplan Sommers, explained, "Left-wing or right-wing, even if you felt like Ariel Sharon [was] wonderful, or if you felt that [he was] completely wrong, you never doubted for a minute that [his] absolute top priority was the security and well-being of the State of Israel and its citizens."
To effect his plan for peace, Sharon left his political party, the Likud, and formed a new coalition party, Kadima.
And now, despite a strong will to live, Sharon is gravely ill. A new generation of young Israelis is at a crossroads.
May we see peace in the Middle East, in our lifetimes, and may Ariel ben Vera, the warrior-turned-peacemaker, be restored to full health and vigor.
Valley Sun Jan 12, 2006