Ariel “Arik” Scheinermann (1928-2014) was born on a moshav in Israel during the British Mandate, to Belorussian parents that immigrated there in 1922. He joined a youth battalion when he was just 14, and soon made a name for himself in the War of Independence, commanding a platoon that fended off the Iraqi invasion. His unit was often sent into the toughest conditions (in a single battle, they once lost 139 soldiers). Scheinermann himself was shot twice in the abdomen and once in the foot. Now a war hero, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion renamed him ‘Sharon’. After serving as an intelligence officer and studying in university, he was ordered back to the military to command 50 of Israel’s greatest soldiers in the new special forces Unit 101. In the 1956 war, he commanded a paratroopers brigade. In ’67, he was put in charge of the largest force in Sinai. He broke orders to come up with his own battle strategies, a major reason for Israel’s six-day victory. Later, his tactics were investigated by the US Army and credited with being unique military innovations. In August of 1973, Sharon finally retired to his farm. Unfortunately, just a few months later, the Arabs launched a surprise invasion of Israel on Yom Kippur. Unprepared, the State appeared to be doomed when Sharon was summoned out of retirement. When asked by his reserve commander, “How are we going to get out of this?” Sharon replied (like a boss): “You don’t know? We will cross the Suez Canal and the war will end over there.” Sharon drove to the war front in his own civilian car (!) and again broke his orders and did things his own way. His maneuvers were credited with turning the tide of the war and ending it in Israel’s favour. He became a national hero, and this led him to easily win a Knesset seat the following year. He would go on to serve as minister of defense, industry, housing, energy, foreign affairs, and finally, prime minister of Israel, while establishing and leading two political parties: Likud and Kadima. His most controversial act would be the pull-out from the Gaza Strip. Shortly after, he fell into a coma that lasted for 8 years, capping a difficult life that included the loss of a son and two wives. Sharon passed away last Saturday, on a special Jewish calendar date known as “Shabbat Shira”, the Sabbath of Song.
Golda Mabovitch (1898-1978) was born in Ukraine and moved with her family to Milwaukee when she was 7 years old. A leader from her youth, she raised funds to pay for her classmates’ textbooks while in elementary school, and ran her parents’ grocery store in their absence. At 14, Golda rebelled against her mother’s wishes to abandon her studies and get married. Instead, she fled to Denver to live with her older sister. There she was first exposed to Zionism, and met her husband Morris Meyerson, from whom she took the last name, later shortening it to Golda Meir. She only married him with the promise that they would move to Israel. After working as a teacher for a few years, Meir finally made aliyah in 1921, joining a kibbutz where she worked on farms and chicken coops. Recognizing her leadership, the kibbutz appointed her their representative to the Histadrut (Federation of Labour). Meir rose through the ranks, eventually becoming head of the Jewish Agency and chief negotiator with the British Mandate. In 1948, she single-handedly raised $50 million for Israel to purchase arms in the wake of war. Ben-Gurion famously said that this was the money that “made the State possible”. She was one of 24 signatories of the Declaration of Independence, and the first person to carry an Israeli passport. Meir served as Labour Minister, and then Foreign Minister, until retiring in 1966 due to lymphoma. But she came back three years later, aged 72, to become Israel’s Prime Minister. She was Israel’s “iron lady” during the Yom Kippur War, maneuvering a victory against all odds. Nonetheless, she took the blame for the war and resigned. She succumbed to lymphoma shortly after. A winner of the Israel Prize, and voted to the list of greatest Israelis, her maxims are often quoted. Meir once said: “Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never allow himself.”
Words of the Week
Ten measures of speech were given to the world, and nine of them were granted to women. – Talmud, Kiddushin 49b