Ariel Sharon died last week at the age of eighty-five. A stroke eight years ago left him in a coma and he never recovered. The following is a short history about the man that many Americans are not aware of:
He was born Ariel Scheinermann on February 26, 1928. David Ben-Gurion gave him the name “Sharon” in late 1948. Sharon was a commander in the Israeli Army and would eventually become Prime Minister of Israel.
His family migrated from the Republic of Georgia in 1922 due to the communist government’s persecution of Jews in that region. Sharon’s family settled in Mandatory Palestine in a socialist, secular community. Ariel was born six years after the family arrived in Palestine.
At age ten he joined the youth movement HaNoar HaOved VeHalomed, and was soon taking part in armed night-patrols of his Moshav. At age fourteen he joined the Gadna, a paramilitary battalion, and later the underground paramilitary force the Haganah, which was the precursor to the Israel Defense Forces.
Sharon’s unit of the Haganah became engaged in continuous combat from the autumn of 1947, when the battle for Jerusalem began and the end of the 1948 War of Independence. His unit took the offensive by conducting hit and run raids on Arab forces at bridges, bases and villages.
After Israel declared independence, Sharon’s unit fended off the Iraqi advance at Kalkiya. By this time he was rising quickly up through the ranks, and was considered an aggressive and hardened soldier.
In 1950, after being promoted to Intelligence Officer for Central Command, Sharon took leave to study history and Middle East culture at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. However the Prime Minister of Israel ordered him back to active duty a year and a half later.
He was given the rank of Major and became the leader of Unit 101, a new Special Forces unit, with orders to carry out reprisal operations in response to Palestinian fedayeen attacks. This unit of some fifty men began a guerrilla warfare offensive carrying out reprisal attacks across Israel’s borders.
Sharon would later take part in, and be a major player in the 1956 Suez War, the 1967 Six-Day War, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In all three of these wars the Egyptians were soundly beaten. His military career was characterized as being insubordinate, aggressive and disobedient, but also as being a brilliant military commander.
After leaving the military in 1974, Sharon went into politics and held the offices of: Minister of Defense (1981-1983, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor (1984-1990), Minister of Housing and Construction (1990-1992), and over lapping offices of Minister of Energy and Water Resources (1996-1999), Minister of Foreign Affairs (1998-1999). He was Prime Minister of Israel from 2001-2006.
Quote for the Week: “Kings and bears often worry their keepers. ----Unknown.
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