Jewish groups joined together early this week to mourn the passing of Ariel Sharon, a past prime minister of Israel who was laid to rest today.
We’ve compiled here just a sampling of the many messages of remembrance that have been shared.
From the American Jewish Committee:
AJC mourns the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
He was a man of towering strength, uncompromising commitment, steely determination, and creative vision.
He was among the giants of Israel’s founding generation. Against all the odds, they established the democratic state, defended it against those who sought its destruction, and participated in its remarkable growth and development over the last nearly six decades.
Sharon loved the land, both literally and figuratively. Never happier than when he was on his farm, he was a devoted son of the Jewish people who cherished the return to the land of their biblical roots.
While he fully understood the importance of military strength and strategic acumen to ensure Israel’s security in a turbulent region, he also displayed a political pragmatism that surprised his external and domestic critics. His withdrawal of all Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 was one telling example. Despite his earlier support of their presence, he concluded that Israel’s long-term security goals could best be met by their removal. In doing so, he changed Israel’s political map and, not for the first time, outmaneuvered his adversaries.
And while he was long viewed as a “hard-liner” by his critics, as prime minister he spoke of a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, a goal that tragically proved unachievable because of the Palestinian failure to seize Israel’s outstretched hand. He also devoted considerable attention, over many years, to relations with Jordan and developed close personal ties with its leaders, as he did with several other Arab rulers.
AJC had many fruitful exchanges with Ariel Sharon, both in his capacity as prime minister and in his many previous government posts. On a personal level, he was always warm and welcoming. On a professional level, he was always engaged, passionate and focused on the challenges of the day.
With his passing, a defining chapter in Israel’s history goes with him. We shall miss him. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his grieving family and to the nation to which he devoted his entire life.
From the Anti-Defamation League:
We are deeply saddened at the loss of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. While he has just passed away, it has truly been eight years since we lost this great statesman and friend. It was a great tragedy on so many levels — both a personal one for him and his family, and a national one for the people of Israel — that Prime Minister Sharon in his final years suffered from the effects of a debilitating stroke that took away the great strength and vitality that was a defining part of his being.
A great military leader who fought in Israel’s five wars, Mr. Sharon capped his career by becoming a true statesman and a prime minister who earned the support of a wide swath of the Israeli public and the international community.
In the wake of the Second Intifada, Mr. Sharon fulfilled the desire of the majority of the Israeli people for a leader who gave them both a sense of security and hope for peace. Never giving in to terrorism or ceasing his demand that Palestinian leaders had to assume responsibility for preventing terrorism, Mr. Sharon also understood that Israel’s future as a Jewish democracy required a courageous unilateral initiative to permanently disengage both troops and settlements from the Gaza Strip. This was a difficult and defining moment in Israel’s history.
Through his steadfast leadership, and his courageous advocacy of positions and policies that were often controversial yet always with Israel’s best interests at heart, Prime Minister Sharon helped his people emerge from a difficult period of suicide bombings and violence by providing pragmatic responses to the duel challenges of terrorism and security.
His legacy is a more secure State of Israel, safe on its borders and resolved to put an end to the campaign of Palestinian terrorism once and for all. It is not only Israel, but the Jewish people, the U.S., and the international community who have lost a towering figure who offered hope to his people and the region.
From the European Jewish Congress:
Sharon was a leader who acted first and foremost in the best interests of his country and its people. A fighter for his country in times of war and a fighter for peace. He will be remembered as someone who played an important and dramatic role in many of the most memorable moments in the history of the State of Israel.
From the Simon Wiesenthal Center:
The Prime Minister visited the Simon Wiesenthal Center on a number of occasions. He left an important legacy as a fearless commander who played a major role in bringing Israel victory during the Yom Kippur War. At the same time, his controversial decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza showed the world that Palestinians, rather than seizing this golden opportunity to make peace, used it to elect Hamas, a terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction.
From the Jewish Agency for Israel:
Ariel Sharon uttered the timeless phrase, “I am a Jew first and an Israeli second.” He invested tremendous effort in strengthening Jewish identity, increasing aliyah (immigration to Israel), and combating anti-Semitism around the world.
Meanwhile, the IDF has announced it is naming a training center in the late prime minister’s honor.