British prudence – a wise teddy bear

An individual’s life and actions are the products of the personality and qualities he was born with, his upbringing, and the circumstances, experiences and events he has undergone.

March 25, 2015 21:58
3 minute read.
Right-wing rally

Right-wing rally in Tel Aviv, dubbed "United for the Land of Israel," March 15, 2015. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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My father had a close friend by the name of Dov Siyon. We called him Dubon – teddy bear. He was very smart, well-educated and well-informed, an erudite man of moderate views and decorous conduct with impeccable manners. He had spent several years in England and had a great appreciation for the famed British restraint.

Since Dubon was older than my father, and much more mild-tempered and reserved, he made an effort to “tone him down.” In their conversations and the many letters he wrote, he urged him to take the role of staff officer rather than commanding officer in the exercises at the Staff College in Camberley, England, to be less heated when fighting in the army for what he believed was right, and in general, to behave more in the spirit of the British.

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In one letter, he wrote: “Dear Arik...In your letters to other friends, it would be very good if maturity, restraint, the wisdom of age, patience, and the other virtues that England instills in those who enter its realm were to gradually come to the fore...My friend, I am going to catch myself in time and stop giving advice. In any case, you will not take it. You will do precisely the opposite, and you will succeed.”

An individual’s life and actions are the products of the personality and qualities he was born with, his upbringing, and the circumstances, experiences and events he has undergone. It’s a package deal. Take away King David’s ambition and you’re left with a brave redhead who would undoubtedly have made an excellent shepherd, but not a king. Or take away Mike Tyson’s rage and you’ve got a nice guy who’s big and strong, but certainly not a world champion.

I could go on. Albert Einstein without curiosity would be a bright, somewhat eccentric fellow. It’s a shame, he had potential. He might have made something of himself.

David Ben-Gurion without vision would have been just another loud, tedious labor leader.

There is no doubt that had my father listened to Dubon, his life would have been easier. He wouldn’t have had been “frozen out” for eight years before being promoted.

Maybe they wouldn’t have tried to drum him out of the army. The question is whether all the actions and operations he commanded would have been successful without his fiery temperament. Would he have earned the unswerving loyalty of so many soldiers? As I said, it’s a package deal. But in order to reach the very top of the ladder – prime minister – he found he needed to take Dubon’s advice. “It took me 70 years to learn that,” my father used to say when he was rebuking us for a show of impatience. It took him 70 years to learn the secret of restraint.

That being said, it’s still possible that without the wave of Palestinian terrorism, he would never have been elected. He called on British prudence in relations with our international friends and to remain on good terms with his political rivals. Terrorists got the old, “wild” Sharon.

I can not conclude without some reference to the present. Governments come and go.

Let us hope that the new one has the wisdom to display restraint when it comes to maintaining harmony at home and with our friends abroad, and yet will pounce wildly on all the problems in need of urgent solutions.

Translated from the Hebrew by Sara Kitai,

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