A life stranger than ﬁction
A scriptwriter proposing the biopic of Ariel Sharon to a Hollywood producer would probably be thrown out of the studio right away. “Nobody would believe it,” the producer would say. “Rambo, Dallas, Patton, House of Cards; too much.”
Sharon’s life was an incredible story. At his barmitzvah, instead of a book, he received a knife, to defend himself against the hostile Arab neighbours. Not that the Jews were much friendlier: the Sheinermans, Arik’s parents, who had been revisionists, were ostracised by their socialist neighbours.
In 1948, he was critically wounded in the battlefield of Latrun, and dragged himself to safety while bleeding from the abdomen. If this were a television series, then in a late chapter Prime Minister Sharon would pay Hizbollah a heavy prize for the release of one Elchanan Tannenbaum, a dubious character. Why? Loyal watchers of the series would remember and understand: for Sharon, leaving comrades in the battlefield was not an option.
In 1953, as a 25-year-old major, Sharon founded the legendary Unit 101 which, in a way, was an incarnation of his barmitzvah knife. The Arab Fedayeen (infiltrators) are causing havoc among the Jews? We’ll ignore orders and world public opinion and teach them a lesson from the text book of the savage Middle East (or a script of a Western movie, for that matter). In the Sinai Campaign of 1956, his paratroopers fought the deadly Mitla Pass battle. Many criticised his recklessness, but his strong leadership won him the admiration of many others.
His personal life would make a blend of soap-opera and film-noire: Margalit, his wife and the mother of their son, Gur, dies in a car accident; her sister, Lili, comes to comfort him and he marries her; 11-year-old Gur dies in a rifle accident; his son, Omri, serves jail time for corruption and many believe he is covering for his father; and so on.
Sharon’s military career is well-known: the Um Katef battle of 1967; the crossing of the Suez Canal in 1973; the First Lebanon War in 1982, when he was no longer the defiant field general fighting his superiors as much as his enemies, but the minister of defence, the architect of the ambitious (and ill-advised) plan to transform predominantly Shiite Lebanon into a Christian friend of Israel. Again, a crazy script, in which Sharon suffered a severe setback when an inquiry brought about his temporary dismissal. “Those who didn’t want him as defence minister,” said his confidant, Uri Dan, “will get him as a prime minister”. Dan was ridiculed at the time, but not for long.
Sharon himself, upon taking the reins of the premiership, coined the phrase: “Things you see from here you don’t see from there [the opposition]”. This is why — in another unbelievable twist — he uprooted the Gaza settlers, who had gone there with his blessing.
And then, exactly when the viewers were ready for the final act — a coma.
Israelis have been glued to the screen. With mixed emotions they watched a movie that was not only about Sharon, but also about themselves. Forget about the critics: Israelis loved this movie.
Uri Dromi is director of the Jerusalem Press Club