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.
Marcus Samuel (1853-1927) was born in London to a wealthy Iraqi-Jewish family originally from the Netherlands. On a trip to the Black Sea in 1890, he saw the potential in oil (still a novel resource at the time). Samuel ordered the construction of 8 tankers that met the highest safety standards, receiving permission to transport oil to Asia across the newly-built Suez Canal. Thus was born Shell Oil, taking the name of the Samuel family business, which began meagerly just a few decades earlier by selling painted seashells. Using one of his tankers, Samuel once saved the stranded ship HMS Victorious, a feat for which he was knighted. Previously, Sir Samuel had served as the Sheriff of London, and even its Mayor! For his role in fueling the Allies in World War I, he was made 1st Baron of Bearsted, and later 1st Viscount of Bearsted. Lord Samuel was known for his incredible devotion to his wife and four children. So much so, in fact, that he died less than 24 hours after the passing of his beloved wife. At death, he left his large estate to be transformed into a public park, an orphanage and a nursing home. Today, his company is known as Royal Dutch Shell, after having merged in 1907 with the Royal Dutch oil company in order to compete with Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. Shell is currently the 5th largest company in the world, with a yearly revenue of over $360 billion.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) A descendant of Sephardic Jews from Portugal – which came to Britain by way of Italy – Disraeli was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1874 until 1880. His Conversative Party made great strides for Britain, and it was said he did “more for the working classes in five years than the Liberals have in fifty.” Disraeli was a staunch imperialist, working hard to spread the borders of the British Empire. He purchased the Suez Canal, invaded Afghanistan, and made Queen Victoria the Empress of India. If that’s not impressive enough, he also wrote 18 novels and 8 non-fiction books. Despite being baptized by his father at a young age, Disraeli always identified as a Jew. On one occasion, while debating in Parliament, a fellow MP attacked him with an anti-Semitic remark, to which Disraeli replied: “Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the Right Honourable Gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the Temple of Solomon.”
Words of the Week
A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness. – Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi