Friday, January 06, 2006

Tribute to PM Sharon by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, Pres. Union of Progr. Judaism

A Tribute to Prime Minister Sharon
by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President,
Union for Reform Judaism


Reform Jews of North America join with Jews throughout the world in
praying for the swift and complete recovery of Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon from his current illness.

Mr. Sharon occupies a unique place in the hearts of the Jewish people
and in the history of the Jewish state. Throughout his life, he has
been a strong and determined leader of Israel and a valiant fighter for
Jewish interests everywhere. As a soldier on the battlefield, he
demonstrated remarkable courage in each of Israel’s wars; later, as a
politician, he demonstrated equal courage in the political arena,
overcoming voices of extremism with a message of reason and moderation.

As Prime Minister since 2001, Mr. Sharon has been a man from whom we
have come to expect the unexpected. A one-time champion of settlement
building, he made the daring decision to dismantle settlements in the
Gaza Strip and end the occupation of Gaza’s 1.3 million Arab
residents. A man of the right, he abandoned the rightwing party that he
helped found to create a centrist one, and to give Israel’s centrist
majority a political home. A long-time opponent of a Palestinian state,
he embraced the idea of such a state as part of President Bush’s Road

The changes that Mr. Sharon has wrought are of historic proportions,
enhancing Israel’s standing in the world and keeping alive Israel’s
hope for peace. Deeply committed to keeping Israel strong, military and
diplomatically, he has also maintained excellent relations with
President Bush and the United States and has responded forcefully
whenever Israel’s citizens have come under attack. A master politician
who is acutely attuned to the pulse of his people, Mr. Sharon has
dominated Israeli politics like no Prime Minister since David Ben
Gurion. No other Israeli leader possesses his daring, political skills,
and credibility.

Israel is a strong and vibrant democracy, and its fate is not dependent
on any one person; it will survive this transfer of power, as it has
all others. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister’s illness and his likely
withdrawal, at least temporarily, from public affairs, are a great blow
to Israel’s political life. We offer our support to the people of
Israel during this period of transition and uncertainty.

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