Friday, January 26, 2007

Dissecting Warrior

Although I'm only up to 1965 in Ariel 'Arik' Sharon's autobiography, Warrior, the book has already given me such a different understanding of one of Israel's most controversial military and political leaders. From his tough upbringing in Kfar Malal to his rise in the Haganah and the IDF, David Chanoff narrates a fast paced book with Sharon's in-depth descriptions of some of the major battles and operations that shaped Israel's struggle to survive. I have found that as I progressed through the book, I have come to respect Sharon more and more but at the same time, it has also left me with many questions regarding the Sharon that led Israel over the last few years.

The book's first few chapters detail Sharon's upbringing in Kfar Malal, a small moshav near the modern cities of Kfar Saba and Ra'anana. The hardships he talks about are the 'usual' ones we read about from this era - difficulty with cultivating the land and the increasingly violent relationship with the Arabs. However, Sharon focuses more on how his father was always an outcast for try ing to grow new vegetables and fruits on his patch of land. Despite constant objections from the moshav, Samuil Sharon continued to follow his ideas and develop fruits, which nowadays are grown throughout Israel. Easy to see where Arik's ability to always stay true to his beliefs (be it the settlements or the disengagement) comes from. Sharon also candidly opens up about his relationship with Gali, the woman that would become his first wife and would tragically pass away in a car accident within five years of giving birth to Gur, their first son. Reading these chapters is always 'difficult' as the Israel Sharon describes is the Israel I would have loved to be a part of - a young, passionate, hard working and ideological people building a country from scratch.

From the moment Sharon turns 17, the book starts following Sharon's rise in the Haganah, his commanding of Unit 101 and his leading of the Paratroopers, who were responsible for every mission in those years. A few interesting things that are worth mentioning involve the Palmach and Latrun.
  • The Palmach was the premier force within the Hagnah and Sharon never even attempted to enlist with them. His reasoning was his father, who begged him to never join any group that betrays the Jewish people, as the Palmach did so proudly during The Season (handing over Irgun and Lechi fighters to the British).

  • The battle for Latrun was the most costly of all the battles fought during the 1948 Independence Day War. Sharon's unit was amongst those who were decimated during one of the numerous attacks launched on the Jordanian held fort. Sharon's unit was left alone, while other retreated, due to lack of communication between the units and the commanding officers (who were not on the battle field). With the help of others, the seriously injured Sharon managed to retreat with all his injured troops and the dead. Mostly due to his event, Sharon would stress, and rightly so, throughout his army career that the single most important element of the army is to never leave any soldiers behind. Any soldier who thinks for a second that he might be left behind during battle will not fight with his maximum abilities.

The above points raised difficult questions for me. If Sharon wouldn't join the Palmach due to his father's advice, why then when he decided on the disengagement did he not make the adjustment to life out of Gaza easier on the evicted? The harsh realities they're facing now have left many feeling as if they were betrayed by their government. What changed in Sharon that allowed him to at least not ensure that once their towns were destroyed, those that were moved would have a good opportunity to try and rebuild their lives wherever they were moved to? The next few questions have been bothering me for years. When 3 soldiers were kidnapped and killed by Hezbollah in 2000, why did Sharon not command the army to launch an operation to retrieve their bodies? Why did Sharon not take a document signed by 112 MKs (members of the Israeli Parliament) to George Bush asking for the release of Jonathan Jay Pollard? There are many more questions likes these that a man who stressed that 'a soldier should never be left behind' should have never left unanswered (perhaps they will be answered later on in the book)

As I've only reached 1965, I really cannot comment on other interesting aspects of Sharon's life. I'm looking forward to reading his take on the Six Day war, the Yom Kippur war (which Sharon is credited for turning around with his remarkable demolition of the Egyptian army) and the Sabra & Chatilla massacre (which Sharon has been blamed for till this very day). Until then, I will leave you with one quote that has struck out to me from the book. On his deathbed, Samuil Sharon told his 28 year old son, "It's a pity I'm going to die. You still need my help in so many ways." Sharon comments on his disbelief at the statement, and how later on in his life, he realized how right his father was. It's quite a simple lesson for all of us to really learn. Our parents are a fantastic source of information and understand us far better than most. We should take advantage of that while we have the chance ...

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Great man - Great Book!