Article: The Legacy of Ariel Sharon

Written by Rabbi Josh Levy — 24 January 2014

It is hard to imagine many obituaries containing such contradictions.  Few men are described in the same breath as hero and villain, as warmonger and peacemaker.  The hero of 1973; the minister with responsibility for the massacres of Sabra and Shatila; the politician who kick-started the second intifada; the statesman who bravely presented a real possibility of peace… no simplistic analysis can sum up Ariel Sharon’s life, or his legacy.

Perhaps this is the legacy.  What we can learn from Ariel Sharon’s example is that a lifetime of service is going to be complicated.  We should not have expectations of simplistic narratives.  Politics, especially in Israel, is complex.  Leaders need to be both doves and hawks, as the context demands.

And the context did shift.  In his long public life, Sharon oversaw a transition from a new state with the concerns of creation and vulnerability, to a mature country looking to build a future alongside its neighbours.  His views defined that change.  He was pragmatic and flexible enough to recognise the new realities of his people, and that Occupation (a word he was willing to use) was not, and is still not sustainable.

We can never know what Ariel Sharon’s political legacy might have been.  His ill health deprived Israel of that.  From his life we can learn the danger of making simplistic judgements about public figures, and the extraordinary possibility of change.

Jewish News, Jan 2014