TAKING THE MEASURE OF A GREAT LEADER
The passing of Yitzhak Shamir was noted but not particularly observed across the world. The former Prime Minister of Israel is certainly worthy of a second look. Because of his age of 98, many will only remember him vaguely if at all. Nevertheless, Yitzhak Shamir was an important stepping stone who left many stories in his wake.
Jerusalem resident Batya Berlinger remembered walking down a Jerusalem street in the autumn of l986. A short, stocky man walking with a much taller friend was approaching. Batya gave a second look and realized it was Shamir. As he passed Shamir bowed his head in greeting and acknowledged Batya as a fellow citizen. Berlinger remembered thinking how good it was to see the Prime Minister observing the Sabbath by walking, not driving, and being just “one of the people.”
Within Israel, left-wing critics attacked him for his refusal to budge on Israel’s claim to the land and his stauch rightists positions. At the same time, his accomplishments remain highly significant. In 1991, he airlifted 14,000 Ethopian Jews to Israel. In addition, he made sure that hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews would come to Israel. Shamir fought to change Israel’s international standing. During his tenure, he reestablished diplomatic relations with several dozen countries.
Shamir characteristically didn’t talk much about himself and kept his cards close to the vest. His personal life stayed private. However, he emerged from a fascinating segment that produced the state of Israel. While this is my personal recollection and evaluation, I call Shamir a revolutionary. He emerged from the underground Lehi organization also known as the Stern Group –or called by his enemies, the Stern gang. Named for the murdered charismatic poet Avraham Stern, the group became an underground force in creating the new state of Israel. Shamir emerges as a silent influence when he worked in the unseen group in 1940 until he resigned from the Mossad agency in l963.
In a rare interview, Sharmir said, “All our life in this land is a revolution.” When he joined the effort to eject the British even though many community leader’s opposed the idea, he saw himself acting on behalf of what was best for the Jewish state whether everyone agreed or not. He perceived Zionism as a revolutionary process in which sentiment and human weakness had to be ignored. Shortly after the murder of Avraham Stern, he escaped from a British detention camp and began to consider the assassination of the British minister of state for the Middle East. Two years later Lord Moyne was assassinated in November 1944. Because revolution is by nature what it is, revolution requires one to do what must be done, even in politics and personal relationships.
On the other hand, when a comrade wanted to kill Jews in order to cause Jews to kill the British, Sharmir ordred his elimination to stop the killing. Once the period of violent activity passed, Sharmir never targeted the British again. While political scientists debate the meaning of revolution, Shamir’s role in both creating and sustaining the state remains as a record of how this radical aspect operated in the early history of the country.
All agree,Yitzhak Shamir played a highly significant role in establish the nation of Israel.
Question: Do you find it difficult to perceive a prime minister of Israel to have once been a terrorist? Does such a role fit in our contemporary world?