A Tribute to Prime Minister Sharon by Rabbi Eric Yoffie
By Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism
Reform Jews of North America join with Jews throughout the world in praying for the swift and complete recovery of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from his current illness.
Mr. Sharon occupies a unique place in the hearts of the Jewish people and in the history of the Jewish state. Throughout his life, he has been a strong and determined leader of Israel and a valiant fighter for Jewish interests everywhere. As a soldier on the battlefield, he demonstrated remarkable courage in each of Israels wars; later, as a politician, he demonstrated equal courage in the political arena, overcoming voices of extremism with a message of reason and moderation.
As Prime Minister since 2001, Mr. Sharon has been a man from whom we have come to expect the unexpected. A one-time champion of settlement building, he made the daring decision to dismantle settlements in the Gaza Strip and end the occupation of Gazas 1.3 million Arab residents. A man of the right, he abandoned the rightwing party that he helped found to create a centrist one, and to give Israels centrist majority a political home. A long-time opponent of a Palestinian state, he embraced the idea of such a state as part of President Bushs Road Map.
The changes that Mr. Sharon has wrought are of historic proportions, enhancing Israels standing in the world and keeping alive Israels hope for peace. Deeply committed to keeping Israel strong, military and diplomatically, he has also maintained excellent relations with President Bush and the United States and has responded forcefully whenever Israels citizens have come under attack.
A master politician who is acutely attuned to the pulse of his people, Mr. Sharon has dominated Israeli politics like no Prime Minister since David Ben Gurion. No other Israeli leader possesses his daring, political skills, and credibility.
Israel is a strong and vibrant democracy, and its fate is not dependent on any one person; it will survive this transfer of power, as it has all others. Nonetheless, the Prime Ministers illness and his likely withdrawal, at least temporarily, from public affairs, are a great blow to Israels political life. We offer our support to the people of Israel during this period of transition and uncertainty.