a different side of Israel

From Ariel Sharon to Arik

Today’s Headlines

Maariv: picture of Ariel Sharon when he arrived at the hospital.

Maariv headlines - Sharon Jan 2006

The quote says: ”I don’t need you to take me to hospital, tomorrow I am going to be there anyway”. This was the angry response of the Prime Minister when his son Gilad wanted to take him. Even in the ambulance, when he met his doctor, Sharon insisted: “now that you saw me, can I go home? He then collapsed.
Yediot Ahronot: Shows a picture with the title “Praying”.

Yediot Ahronot - Sharon Jan 2006

Haaretz photogrpaher Lior Mizrachi took this amazing picture of Ehud Olmert next to Sharon’s empty chair.

Ehud Olmert without Sharon

The news just announced a worsening of Ariel Sharon’s condition. I planned to write this before the news and it seems more appropriate now. The newspapers are full of stories and articles on Arik Sharon and the void he leaves behind. I was thinking about how we as a nation have gotten to the point today that we feel this sense of loss. How did Ariel Sharon become Arik?

What made this man, a man hated and ridiculed by so many, the media, people and world opinion all of a sudden so loved? I am saying loved because there is no other way of describing it. You can feel a sense of loss and confusion. It shows itself in people’s faces, less then busy coffee shops and the non stop broadcasts and at times misty broadcasters that recall interviews. This is a collection of excerpts, stories and experiences collected from a variety of sources. I hope it shows a true picture of what we feel here. It is as impartial as possible.

I was watching last night a special Yair Lapid show on Channel 2 TV. He broadcast bits from an interview he held November 2005. The interview was at his home in Hashikmim Farm – there in the kitchen they sat down and in a typical Israeli straight forward, candid way, had a chat. I can’t provide a script of the interview but here are a few quotes:

Yair: What is your biggest fear?
Sharon: Blind hate.
Yair: Tell me something people don’t know about you?
Sharon: I like romantic movies, films that women like.
Yair: I heard that you never read the articles about you. Is that right?
Sharon: I wake up at 5:30 every morning and I only have an hour to take a look at the papers. I don’t get much time. I get to the office and then I am there until 11:00PM sometimes later.
Yair: You don’t take a nap in the afternoon, a break?
Sharon: I wish I did, but I can’t do it.
Yair: What about in the car, on the way to and from places? Can’t take a nap there?
Sharon: I rather look out the window, see the fields, the changing seasons. Don’t want to miss a chance to see the country.
Yair: How do you pamper yourself?
Sharon: I like to take a walk in the fields and around the farm. Look at the livestock.
Yair: I heard that you don’t go out to restaurants much. I believe it was 4-5 dinners in 4 years. Is that right?
Sharon: Yes, but as you can see from looking at me, I enjoy good food at home. It hasn’t slowed me down.(they laugh).
Yair: What’s your favorite food?
Sharon: I like the lentil soup we make here.
Yair: you have a special relationship with George Bush. Some people say that its because he can’t really manage long sentences.
Sharon: I don’t know about his inability to say long sentences. But actually who needs long sentences.

Shlomo Artzi

When I was a young man in the 1960’s, an article in the paper mentioned for the first time this mysterious young officer. He was part of a mysterious army unit, that was a topic of discussion, called the 101. It was then the myth surrounding his name began.

I won’t discuss the history of the Likud, the frustration of not getting the position of Chief of Staff or the days that we rallied against him, 400,000 of us against one man – and we hurt him.

The years pass quickly as you know, maybe too fast. In the time line, everything rushes by us. As time went by, things changed, Arik Sharon started to mend his battered image. The man that at every step of the way was under repeated assaults, the big killer, became the man we all of sudden all needed.

It was a Friday afternoon, my cell rang. Arik introduced himself simply: ”Arik speaking, can we talk?” Two days earlier he was with Lili his wife at my show in Cesaria. He wanted to let me know of the emotional experience he had at the show.
“I cried at July Heat (song)” said the man that was not yet the Prime Minister, the man that you could not imagine shedding a tear, the tough man supposedly.

It was an embarrassing conversation where you listen to praise about yourself. I wanted to be honest and I told him I was one of the demonstrators against him after Sabra and Shatila. He laughed uncomfortably. I thanked him for the call.

The second call was when he was already a Prime Minister. It was in a mid week morning, I was at the recording studio.
“Arik speaking”, he said.
“Which Arik?”, I asked.
“Arik Sharon”, he laughed.
“Yes, Mr. Prime Minister”, I answered, embarrassed.
“Can we talk, is this a bad time?”, he asked.
“Sure”, I said.
He started quoting things I said in a radio talk show from the night before. He quoted me verbatim. Knew every detail. This surprising conversation continued and he went on to discuss the isolation in his position. He was very sensitive and at times I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation.
One thing that stuck in my mind from this conversation. We spoke about the Left and the Right parties in the political arena. He all of a sudden surprised me and said:
“you’ll find out that I am in the center”. This was four years ago and only after the separation from Gaza did I understand.

Shimon Kahner Lieutenant Colonel (Retired)

I met Arik in 1953 in the 101 he commanded and since then we were friends. He saved my life when I was injured 50 years ago in Nitzana where he personally evacuated me. When I was in hospital for a year, Arik visited, cheered me up and consoled.

We were good friends for years. Every conversation between us eventually circled to the livestock, rain and the pastures. I don’t know anyone who was as knowledgeable in agriculture.

A common friend, Meir Har-Zion, attacked him viciously over the separation from Gaza. I came to defend Arik in the media. Arik called me and said: “don’t hurt Meir..”

Shimon Shifer

It was 2002, after he was elected the first time. We had a meeting at his office and it was a good meeting. I could tell he was uneasy. He wanted to say something personal but didn’t.

A few days earlier I took part in a show, where Ilana Dayan the reporter tried to solve “Sharon the riddle”. During the interview, I told her that Lili Sharon, his late wife, out of love and the need to protect Arik, increased his resentment to his critics and made him shy away from many. After her passing, Sharon went through a process of forgiveness with his surrounding, something that helped him to get elected to prime minister.

Sharon heard me on the TV show. At the end of our meeting he walked me to the door and quietly said:”I wanted to let you know something about Lili. It could be that you are right about her, and it doesn’t matter. Remember one thing. Lili is dead, and the dead can’t answer back. Leave the dead.” A shiver went through me.

July 6, 2005, at the time that threats on his life were at an all time high, the Prime Minister went to eat at “Refael”, a restaurant in Tel Aviv, with some friends. Security services got him quietly into the restaurant and the dinner went on for 3 whole hours. Lamb skewers were served, from Sharon’s Hashikmim Farm. Sharon smiled and said: “I don’t normally eat friends.”

The next day, the chef received a call from Sharon. He thanked the chef in length and then said: “Tell me, after all the food that I polished up last night – do you have anything left ?”

On weekends and holidays, when he would call me and get me at the national park or at the beach with my family, Sharon would eagerly listen to my description of regular life around me. “Tell me, is the park busy? How many people are there?” he would ask, “are they having fun?”.
During yearly Independence Day celebrations I would speak to him “from the field”. Sharon could hear in the background the music and laughing from the street performances and passers by. The sounds of Israelis celebrating in the streets made him very happy.

Ben Caspit

These were his most beautiful years. Almost five years since he became Prime Minister. Years of joy, late blossoming. Years of freedom. Years where the butterfly emerged from the pupa.

Ariel Sharon of the past, the one we knew, wasn’t supposed to be. He wasn’t himself. It started in the Yom Kippur War, where he battled against the entire defense establishment, and brought him to the stage after the Lebanon War where he became the “murderer from the farm”. Ariel Sharon was then an angry man, petty, restless. Vengeful, resentful, bitter and chased. He was chasing himself, his own tail, anyone who insulted him, write anything critical about him or anyone trying to hurt his lost good name.

All that passed away as soon as he sat on the Prime Minister’s “buck skin” seat. He did it at his twilight years, against all odds, almost by chance. Once that happened there was no stopping him. He left the demons behind. He broke the chains, the deep freeze he was in, the restricting frame that kept him jailed, agonizing. He became himself again. He relaxed. He understood that there was no point in getting angry. No point in rushing. And he turned, back, to what he was supposed to be. A pleasant man. Civilized. Quiet. Sure of himself. A man of classical music, who loved birds and flowers, of tranquility. He came out of the shell, shook off the small Sharon, the maddening Sharon, that made him bitter and bothered him. He broke the barrier, crossed the channel of bad blood and got to an oasis of clear, clean water.

In these last few years he didn’t try to prove anything. He learned to forgive. Forgot the pettiness. Returned to proportions, the big picture. Started to blossom. Looked at things from up high, with a sharp focused eye. Like Gulliver in the land of Lilliput, like someone with the ability to see to great distances with clarity, even in the clouds. That never ending restlessness, that need to prove, retaliate, chase and capture, was gone. You have to decide if you want to win or enjoy yourself, they told him. He decided he wanted to win. And then, he began enjoying himself.

Amnon Dankner

The collective heart still refuses to believe that we will have to live without Ariel Sharon’s involvement in the public arena, but the collective brain has to understand that fate has determined that we will continue without him, and so we will, even if a big black gaping hole tears open in our heart.


  1. dear mr. sharone, sending you prayers and blessings. I am recovering from a bleeding will be OK I have found some good therapies that help withtight hand and stroke leg. my therapist is exellent. you could always visit here or send for her. keep your hope up and if you find therapy isn’t moving foreward please write me It’s three years since my bleed and I continue to improve. GOD BLESS TOU LOVE HAN

  2. I LOVE Ariel Sharon! I pray every day for Him, and I believe in Miracles. He just can wake op one of this and will walk…

    This is what I’m praying for. The strong and the same time the Sweet and Gentle Arik…

  3. Arik belonged to the old school generation
    of Israelis,and very few of them are still around to lead Israel, unless the young generation will produce equal or better people.

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