In response to the passing last weekend of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, released the following statement:
Today, we mourn the death of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, an iconic leader whose love for Israel and the Jewish people infused his entire illustrious career. He was a visionary, larger than life, with the courage to constantly assess his stated positions, always with an eye toward pragmatism and concern for his beloved Israel. Considered one of Israel's greatest military strategists, his role in Israel's wars - from the War of Independence to the 1956 Suez Campaign, the 1967 and 1973 wars - was pivotal to ensuring Israel's security and indeed, the very existence of the state. His military prowess did not always serve him well. His decision, as Israel's Minister of Defense, to promote the 1982 war in Lebanon, and his actions that played a role in the deaths of residents of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp by Lebanese phalangists, were terribly misguided. But, after a national inquiry and his resignation, he successfully returned to political life, capturing the votes and affection of the Israeli public. Most dramatically, this one-time architect of Israel’s settlement project, as Prime Minister from 2003-2005, led the government that forced a withdrawal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza strip, showing that throughout his storied career, he remained firm in his resolve to do what he saw as best for Israel’s security. He believed that Israel's well-being rests on its future as a Jewish democratic state, and for that, he made hard decisions that upended Israel's political landscape, with the aim of achieving lasting peace and security for Israel. Though his absence has been felt since he suffered a stroke in 2006, his own words and legacy continue to inspire: 'The future lies before us. We are required to take difficult and controversial steps, but we must not miss the opportunity to try to achieve what we have wished for, for so many years: security, tranquility and peace.' May his memory be for a blessing and may his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion.This statement from Rabbi Rick Jacobs originally appeared on the URJ Press page.