- Posted January 13, 2014 by
Gush Etzion, Israel
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Remembering Ariel Sharon
The Bulldozer's reverse
Today Israel buried one of its most controversial political and military leaders, Ariel Sharon.
In the summer of 2005, weeks after Sharon had single handedly swayed the Israeli government to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza strip, I found myself visiting a synagogue in an Israeli settlement in the northern West Bank. This settlement was just a few miles away from one of the Israeli neighborhoods evacuated as part of the plan.
As I strolled through the hallway of the synagogue I noticed a series of framed photographs on the wall. Looking closer I was stunned to see pictures of none other than Ariel Sharon planting trees, and laying cornerstones for what was to become the synagogue I was now standing in. I will never forget the sense of confusion that flooded my head at that moment.
As a newcomer to Israel at the time, Sharon had been in my eyes labeled as the most left wing, anti-settlement leader of Jewish history. Black and white posters of Sharon wearing an Arab head covering coated the streets of Jerusalem, depicting him as an accomplice to the enemy. Seeing these photographs, that were once hung with great pride in this synagogue, clashed so fiercely with the persona that was depicted in the posters of the street, it became clear to me that this man could not be portrayed in black and white.
In his early military career, Ariel Sharon became notorious for using unsanctioned force and brutality towards Palestinians, believing that it would be the only way to insure Israel's safety. This etiquette of power and determination coined him the nickname "Bulldozer". Sharon was often criticized and reprimanded for his behavior, but the successful results of his actions defended his decisions time and time again. Even after retiring from his military career, Sharon carried this attitude into the political sphere when becoming Defense Minister. Although Sharon was found not guilty of causing the Phalanges Massacre in southern Lebanon, he was chastised for not preventing it, and was removed from his position. In his newly acquired position as minister of industry and trade he worked tirelessly to develop the Israeli settlements in The West Bank and Gaza. It turned out the photographs I found in that synagogue were of hundreds of moments captured in which Sharon deepened and strengthened the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. At this time he stated "The law regarding Netzarim (an Israeli settlement in Gaza) is no different than the law regarding Tel Aviv", meaning that the Israeli settlements of Gaza would never be given away.
However, only a few years later, as prime minister of Israel, the Bulldozer demolished the values and beliefs that he once held uprooting the very trees he planted in the Israeli settlements of the Gaza strip. At the time it was incomprehensible, how could a man so stubborn, so determined, make a decision so seemingly backwards? People thought he went mad, that he had literally lost his mind.
Now looking back, I admire Ariel Sharon's humility and ability to reinvent himself. Often political figures are seen as those who must have all the answers, those who should know what is best for their country. For politician's entire careers their party's initials stand in parentheses at the end their names often defining them even more than the two words before. Ariel Sharon was able to look at the political climate, and at himself, and say, "I was wrong." In a matter of days he dismantled his life's work believing that now this, no matter how painful it is, is the best thing for my country. To me it is clear, this man's picture must be hung in color.