Sad new out of Israel this past weekend, with the reports of Ariel Sharon's death on Friday January 11th at 2pm. Yet, while the media will center our attention on the greatness of Ariel Sharon revolving around his consistent efforts to bring peace between Israel and Palestine, including the removal of Israel's quote on quote 'occupation' of the Gaza Strip and his commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state with the Oslo Accords. As a result this small tribute to the man will focus on neither, and instead focus on Sharon's top 10 achievements chronologically, outside of brokering peace with Palestine. Since Sharon was more than a Prime Minister, he was a self-made man, one who was born in 1928 into nothing, and from nothing would fight and come to create everything for himself and his people, the Jewish people of the state of Israel.
1 - Fought to Prevent a Second Holocaust: When the Arabs decided that the existence of an Israeli state under the UN approved partition of the region known as Palestine in 1947, could not be allowed and that genocide against the Jewish people in Palestine was necessary and the will of God, Ariel Sharon and many other brave Jewish men and women took up arms to defend themselves, and engaged in what has become known as the Israeli War of Independence.
2 - Won the Jewish Holy City of Jerusalem: One of Ariel Sharon's greatest achievements came during the Israeli War of Independence, during the Battle of Jerusalem, which lasted from December 1947 to July 18, 1948. Since as a member of one of the 30 man cells deployed by the Haganah to repel Arab assualts in and around Jerusalem, Ariel Sharon played a vital role in recapturing the Holy City of his people. Highlighted by his achievement, as platoon commander, in fending off the Iraqi advance against Kalkiya.
3 - A Soldier Through and Through: Perhaps this is not so much an achievement of will, as much as a God-given ability, but Ariel was known as one of the most talented, hardened, and aggressive soldiers in all of the Haganah and Israeli military. Even being shot in the groin, stomach, and foot by the enemy could not slow him down, and he quickly moved up the ranks, until by 1950 he was the intelligence officer for central command. In fact, so renowned was he, that even David Ben-Gurion the Commander and Chief during the Israeli War for Independence, took notice and gave him one of the highest honors one can receive in the Jewish community, a name; giving him the name Sharon.
4 - One of the First Counter Terrorism Soldiers in Israel: In 1951 Sharon, under direct orders from now Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, returned to active service with the rank of Major and as the new leader of Unit 101; akin to our modern day Navy Seals. With Sharon and his new 50 man unit, one of the most elite forces in the new Israeli army, tasked with executing reprisal operations in response to Fedayeen (one of the first Islamic terrorist organizations to seek the destruction of Israel) attacks being launched from the West Bank in Palestine (which at the time was controlled by the Jordanians). With the various successes achieved by Sharon not only boosting Israeli army morale, but also convincing the nation's various Arab enemies that Israel was a force to be reckoned with, and one that had long-range strike capabilities.
5 - Sharon Not Just A Soldier, Also a Brilliant Commander: Despite tensions that arouse between Sharon and the politicians and higher ranking military establishment during the Suez War of 1956, Sharon continued to persevere and make a name for himself. Until by 1967, with the outbreak of the Six-Day War, Sharon had risen to the rank of Aluf (Major General), and during the war was put in charge of the most powerful armored division on the Sinai front. A front that needed to hold if Israel was to survive against the seemingly overwhelming power of Egypt and her allies. Yet, instead of taking up a defensive posture along the front, Ariel Sharon, as was his nature, decided to take a risk and act bravely and forcefully against the Egyptian forces at the battle of Abu-Ageila. Resulting in total victory along the front for the Israeli's; as Sharon's strategy of small units attacking simultaneously against all the various layered units of the Egyptians, meant that the various layers of the Egyptian defense could not cover and support the others as they were designed to do against a full frontal assault. Leaving each unit and layer in the Egyptian defense line fighting for their life. A strategy so brilliant that Sharon was internationally commended for his bravery and tactics, including by the United States Army, as well as found himself at the center of a new paradigm of operational command within the Israeli military.
6 - Winning Friends and Influencing People: Sharon, just as he was in the military, was an instant force to be reckoned with in the political arena. Since just months into his political career, Sharon became instrumental in forming the Likud (Unity) Party, via merger of the Herut, Liberal, and various other independent parties, in July of 1973. Even acting as chairman of the campaign staff during that year's elections, only to be called back to the front lines two and a half weeks into the campaign with the eruption of the Yom Kippur War. In fact, so influential was he that upon his resignation from the first seat he ever won in the Knesset in 1973, Sharon was handpicked by Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel and head of another party, to be his special aide and advisor after Sharon had returned from the war.
7 - Sharon Wins an Entire War Single-handedly: Even though Sharon had retired from active service in August of 1973, beginning a life in politics as a member of the Likud Party; when duty called with the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War on October 6, 1973, Sharon went. And as commander of a division along the Sinai Front, Sharon began his most daring tactical maneuver yet, crossing the Suez Canal under the cover of darkness. In fact, so controversial was this maneuver that at the end of the war a military tribunal was established to investigate Sharon's decision. With the tribunal finding that not only was Sharon's maneuver effective and not only turned the war in Israel's favour, but won the war for Israel. Since with his crossing of the Suez Canal, Sharon's division as well as Abraham (Bren) Adan's reluctant division, were able to cut off supply routes and encircle and entrap both the entire Egyptian Second Army and the Egyptian Third Army along the Sinai Front; forcing a near instant and early end to the war.
With a photo of Sharon wearing a head bandage on the Suez Canal becoming a famous symbol and warning of Israeli military prowess.
8 - Sharon's Likud Wins the Prime Ministerial: Despite having only formed a mere 4 years prior, Sharon's party, the Likud, would go from a brand new party, which not only won seats in the 1973 elections, but by 1977 won the office of the Prime Minister. With Sharon becoming the Minister of Agriculture and the party's leader Menachem Begin the Prime Minister. In fact, once more was Sharon so instrumental in these victories, that following the 1981 elections, due to his important and essential contributions to the Likud's narrow victories, Prime Minister Begin awarded him by appointing him to the most essential cabinet position in the nation, Minister of Defense.
9 - Sharon Built Israel: During his time in politics and in office as member of various cabinets from 1977 to 1999, Sharon was a staunch supporter of the settlers movement. A movement that insisted that the security of Israel was uniquely tied to and dependent upon the people's ability to settle as much land as possible before the Arab nations regrouped after the war of Yom Kippur, and began buffeting once more against the borders of Israel. With Sharon stating in 1977, that "everybody has to move, run and grab as many (Judean) hilltops as they can to enlarge the (Jewish) settlements because everything we take now will stay ours... everything we don't grab will go to them;" a message that led to the doubling of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during Sharon's tenure as Minister of Agriculture from 1977 to 1981.
10 - Sharon Leads Israel: This achievement was perhaps the least surprising of them all, considering everything else that Sharon had done for Israel up until this point; but on February 6, 2001, as head of the Likud Party and at the age of 73, he was elected Prime Minister of Israel, winning 62% of the vote. Unfortunately, upon achieving the pinnacle of success for any political career in Israel, it was all down hill from there; proving the old adage true that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Yet, despite that, Sharon's life is one is that should inspire us all. Since from humble beginnings as the son of poor parents who fleeing the Russian pogroms ended up in Palestine. Not only would he find and come to have great personal wealth and success, but would also come to play an essential role in not just the survival of his people and the state of Israel in 1948, but also in their continued security and prosperity in a world surrounded by enemies that desired nothing but their death. Sacrificing everything, even his own personal security on the front lines of many battles and many wars, to ensure that his children and his people had a future, and that a second holocaust never came to pass.