As millions of Israelis mourned former prime minister Ariel Sharon Sunday as a leader and a solider, his former close aides remembered the man they loved, respected and enjoyed serving.
Sharon’s better-known advisers – such as Dov Weissglas and Israel Maimon – normally are interviewed as experts on the former prime minister. But Sunday even the lesser-known aides became celebrities, giving countless interviews about their personal relations with him.
“I am departing today from not only a prime minister and a general but also a father for me and the entire dedicated team who worked for him,” said his former political adviser Erez Halfon.
“It’s a hard and sad day for me and I will miss him very much. But it was an honor to work for him for seven years and to learn so much from him.”
Halfon, who is now deputy chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh, said leading the planning of Sharon’s funeral gave him the strength to continue.
Oren Magnezy, who started working as an aide to Sharon at age 23, said his death felt like the passing of a close family member “between a father and a grandfather.”
Magnezy, who could not make the funeral because he is in Boston with his newborn child, said he misses the subjective feeling that there is a “steady hand on the wheel” driving Israel through its challenges.
“For us the mourning period began eight years ago when we started having to live life without him,” Magnezy said. “I am glad he has closure. It’s good that he’s no longer between life and death and that he is receiving the honor he deserves.”
Sharon’s former spokeswoman Odelia Karmon, who worked for him following the death of his wife, Lily, said she would always remember the youthful love he had for his companion of 37 years.
“I will most miss his special sense of humor and his serenity when making tough decisions,” she said. “We knew when he decided to do something that he would do it. I didn’t see such things with every politician.”
Ra’anan Gissin, who was a longtime Sharon spokesman, said he would be remembered for future generations for what he accomplished as a leader and a warrior but also revered as a man who knew how to talk to people.
“I hope for future leaders with clear views, who are strong, smart, and courageous like Sharon,” he said.