Yom Kippur and longing

Yom Kippur is approaching, bringing thoughts of that awful war and of my father, who was there for the nation.

By
October 1, 2019 21:22
3 minute read.
‘MY FATHER was entrusted with a country in chaos. Terror was raging in the streets and the list of v

‘MY FATHER was entrusted with a country in chaos. Terror was raging in the streets and the list of victims kept growing longer and longer.’ Former prime minister Ariel Sharon in Gilo in 2002 observing Palestinian terrorism threats. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Anyone who works in public service, especially the prime minister, is entrusted with a precious charge – the state itself. It is his duty to return it in better shape than it was when he received it. Otherwise, what did he do during his term of office, and to what end?

My father was entrusted with a country in chaos. Terrorism was raging in the streets and the list of victims kept growing longer and longer. Israel was in a state of pain, fear and total loss of deterrence. Our enemies had no respect for the previous head of government, nor did the Israeli population.

Even those who did not agree with my father will admit that from the moment he assumed the office of prime minister, it was abundantly clear that someone was in charge. The position and the man who held it regained respect.

And the results were soon evident. At the end of his five years as prime minister, the country was in much better shape than before. The terrorists had been crushed, the citizens felt secure again, the economy was growing rapidly, and Israel had achieved unprecedented status in the world arena.

He came to the office of prime minister with a wealth of experience, well prepared for the role. Nevertheless, he undertook the job with awe, fully aware of the heavy responsibility resting on his shoulders as a link in a chain of leadership going back thousands of years, from Moses and King David to David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin, two men with whom he was closely familiar.

What made him what he was? What turned a moshav boy from a family of farmers into an intrepid soldier, a bold commander, a military strategist, a leader?

There’s no point in going into detail about genetics. Suffice it to say that he was a born leader; it was an innate quality. But there were many other factors involved as well.

He grew up in a nonconformist family, perhaps the only one in the Jewish agricultural settlement in the 1930s that openly supported the Revisionists.

He lived a lonely life. As a child he would sit in the moshav gazing eastward at the Samarian hills and making up heroic tales in which he was the central character.

Nothing came easy to him. His promotion was under fire. He never attended an officers training course. When the bullets started flying, he maintained his composure and began to notice that the other soldiers in his unit were waiting for him to tell them what to do. Sensing the huge responsibility, he drew strength from the soldiers, who drew strength from him.

His leadership role reached its height in the Yom Kippur War. “Arik is here,” the soldiers, still in shock from the Egyptian attack, kept repeating in relief. Some literally grabbed hold of his shirt. Even soldiers from other units tuned their radio devices to his frequency to hear him say, “40 here” as he issued orders. In the hell of war, he was a calming voice, a source of security and confidence.

The kitchen has always been the hub of our home. From his regular place at the head of the table, my father would sit and think, talk on the phone, and oversee the national endeavors under his authority. And eat, of course. It’s the kitchen, after all.

It’s still the hub of our home. The pots are still bubbling on the stove, the aroma of baking still rises from the oven. But he is no longer here.

Translated from the Hebrew by Sara Kitai, skitai@kardis.co.il


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