Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon died on Saturday after eight years in a coma following a brain hemorrhage in January 2006. His coffin was to lie in state at the Knesset on Sunday, and his funeral was scheduled for Monday at Sharon’s Sycamore Ranch in the southern Negev region. He was 85.
Sharon was the last of a generation of Israeli leaders and warriors that knew how to get the job done. Often controversial, Sharon was not afraid to bend and even break the rules in order to accomplish his and what he felt were the nation’s goals. And more than once, that approach is believed to have saved the State of Israel from disaster.
David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, famously labeled Sharon as the Jewish state’s “greatest field commander” for his uncanny ability to remain calm and turn the tide of battle. Sharon carried that level of composure and confidence into his political career where, again often contentious, he managed to get things done that others viewed as being out of reach.
From daring and defiant military maneuvers that brought Israel some of its greatest wartime victories, to brutal anti-terror campaigns that taught Israel’s enemies that Jewish blood is not cheap, to bulldozing through some of Israel’s toughest political issues, Sharon demonstrated a decisiveness that is sorely lacking in most of the nation’s leaders today.
The reaction of former left-wing opposition leader Yossi Sarid to Sharon’s death perhaps best relates the impact he had on this nation:
“[Ariel Sharon] was the most present and influential person in the country in the past two generations. Lots of people wanted to influence and leave their mark, but nobody, for better or for worse, left such a deep mark on our history in the past few decades.”