Two personal experiences with Ariel Sharon z'l
A person’s perception of any other individual is always influenced by what is “public” and what is “personal.”
There is the public Arik Sharon—which has been and will be written about, especially now with his death.
Then there is what I would call the “personal”—the individual I got to know on a somewhat personal level.
1) OK, you may not consider this first experience so “personal” as it happened with about 200 other people—but, to me it was. During my tenure as the executive director of the Greater Orlando Jewish Federation, the national UJA organized a three-day ‘fly-in’ for community leaders (either 1982 or 83) to Israel and we ended up going into southern Lebanon. Ira Monroe z’l, Howard Lefkowitz and I represented Orlando. It was a trip that I will never forget. We drove into Lebanon to a hilltop of Sidon and were met by the IDF Commander Arik Sharon. Maps in hand, he was very patient with us (many of whom were a little nervous—being so close to ongoing airstrikes—to say the least) explaining in great detail what was happening and why Israel was doing what it was doing. He took every question. Sharon showed a sense of warmth and caring for his troops, the people of Israel, and the people of Lebanon.
2) During my tenure as the national head of the campaign and regional operations for the JNF. we worked with Ariel Sharon who was then head of the Ministry of Housing. JNF was preparing land for thousands of housing sites for Russian immigrants who were to be coming to the Beer Sheva area. We took about a dozen of our leaders and donors (1991 or ‘92, I think Joe Hess and Bob Levine, and I know that Pam and the late Stan Chais were part of the group) to meet with Sharon at his ranch to hear from him about what the government was doing and what JNF’s role was to be. He treated us like family. Hosted us for a meal in his ranch, and, of course, took some of the group on a tractor ride (great solicitation tool). He couldn’t have been more charming and interested in what we asked and had to say. Also an experience I’ll never forget.
So, I join the Jewish people as we mourn and remember one of Israel’s founders and heroes, but with a little different perspective.
May the Sharon family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and of Jerusalem.