What does the Torah say about… Ariel Sharon?

By Rabbi Ariel Abel.

EIGHT YEARS after a stroke that left him in a coma, Ariel Sharon, army general, politician and statesman, passed away at Tel HaShomer hospital. Sharon joined the Haganah at the age of 14 and fought in all of Israel’s battles, from the Battle for Jerusalem in 1947 up to the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

After the Yom Kippur War, Ariel Sharon was hailed a hero and popularly called “King of Israel” after encircling the Egyptian Third Army.

I was born a year later, and so my parents named me after him.

What does the Torah say about a man like Ariel Sharon? David, King of Israel, asked of God to build the Temple. He was informed that his son would be given the honour and not he; it would not be appropriate for David to build a Temple of Peace, because he was “a man of blood” – a warrior.

This seems somewhat harsh, as without David’s success on the battlefield it would have been quite impossible to stabilise the kingdom and build the Temple.

Moses, the most famous leader of all, made one serious decision, which was injudicious. At a time when a controlled temper was required of him, he decided to display a fit of righteous anger.

He fought all the major battles to ensure that the Israelites could gain entry into the Promised Land. Nonetheless, he was left behind to die on the East Bank. A final point concerns the decision to keep Sharon on a ventilator for so many years.

As long as there was a chance that he might regain consciousness and breathe again independently, there is no doubt that this should happen. Only when the body is simply forced to live through life support, is it no longer permissible to persist with treatment, which is then gradually withdrawn.

Many laid the blame at Sharon’s feet for the murder by the Christian Maronite Lebanese Army of Muslims at Sabra and Shatila in 1982.

Fellow Jews vilified him for taking charge of the removal of the very settlements for which he had fought in the “disengagement” from the Gaza strip.

Military and political leaders have the least chance of being regarded as saints. But in the case of Ariel Sharon, his devotion to the Jewish people and strategic brilliance saved many thousands of Jewish lives – and indirectly, Arab lives, on the battlefields, by bringing many wars to a very quick and decisive end.