Sharon's last laugh

Even in the most serious moments, former prime minister Ariel Sharon knew how to make his subordinates and everyone around him laugh; his dry, and sometimes dark, sense of humor eased tensions, even with purported foes.

January 13, 2014 22:28
2 minute read.
sharon 1973

Ariel Sharon a week after the Yom Kippur War cease-fire.. (photo credit: Emanuel A. Winston)


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During his political and military careers, former prime minister Ariel Sharon regularly dealt with very serious issues, and he made life-or-death decisions on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, even in the most serious moments, he knew how to make his subordinates and everyone around him laugh. Sharon’s dry – and sometimes dark – sense of humor eased tensions, even with purported foes.

Keeping that in mind, it was hard not to imagine what Sharon might have thought had he watched Monday’s funeral procession at the Knesset.

Chances are, there were moments in the very serious ceremony that he would have considered funny.

There was no ridiculous sign-language interpreter like at the late South African president Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

US Vice President Joe Biden was careful to not take any selfies.

But first of all, guests of the Sharon family and VIPs were given orange bracelets, which enabled their entrance to the most secure areas of the procession.

Whoever decided on the color must have forgotten that orange bracelets were a sign of protest against Sharon’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

There were constant references to Sharon’s love of the Land of Israel that he was about to be buried in. Some attendees could likely almost hear Sharon, who often made fun of himself, saying from his casket that – with all due respect – he would rather remain above ground among the living.

President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speeches passed without incident. They both made a point of avoiding mentioning Gaza, Lebanon or anything controversial.

Then Biden took the microphone, speaking several decibels louder than the Israelis.

His voice carried far outside the Knesset and reverberated back.

At the very beginning of his speech, Biden called the prime minister “Metanyahu,” and pronounced Peres’s name with an emphasis on the second syllable, which made the Polish- born president’s name sound Hispanic. He namedropped several Israeli leaders but forgot former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was sitting not far from him.

Audience members cringed when in an apparently inadvertent fat joke, Biden said when he was present, Sharon “filled the room.” But the truth is, Sharon made fun of his girth more than anyone. After entering an elevator with weighty Labor MK Avraham “Baiga” Shochat, Sharon looked at him and said “we must be going down.”

When Biden praised the Gaza Strip withdrawal, Gush Katif evacuee MK Zvulun Kalfa sat silently in the back of the crowd, staring uncomfortably at the ground. But most of Biden’s 17-minute speech was full of uncontroversial praise for Israel and Sharon.

While Biden has a reputation for speaking too long, Sharon never minded lengthy lectures.

He was able to sit stoically in the Knesset plenum for hours while MKs attacked him without even changing his expression.

Sharon would have loved to see the odd mix of people his funeral brought together, from settlers to statesmen and everything in between.

The crowd reflected who he was. And who he was was very funny.

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