Jewish Sightseeing HomePage Jewish Sightseeing

2006-02-06-Sharon, Elections & Memories

Writers Directory 

Muriel Goldhammer


Letter from Kfar Saba

Sharon, Elections and 
American Memories
, Feb. 6, 2006

By Muriel Goldhammer

KFAR SABA, Israel — Back when I was a kid, we never missed Will Rogers’ radio program. Will Rogers was a “cowboy” comedian who began his career in vaudeville twirling his lasso while commenting on the news of the day, or the odds and ends of human behavior in America.  He began every show with “All I know is what I read in the paper.”

Well that’s my expertise too, and during the past month things have been happening faster than most of us can absorb them. Ariel Sharon had a stroke and on Wednesday, the Palestine Authority held an election and Hamas won. Suddenly it’s a brand-new ball game.

This letter will be about Sharon and post-Sharon.  The next will be about Hamas.

Most everyone who follows the news knows something about Sharon and his controversial career, first as a hard-liner and a brilliant tactician and then his about-face when as Prime Minister he led Israel to disengage from Gaza, with an implied promise of further disengagements from the West Bank.  

Sharon’s health
Everyone could tell from his pictures that he ate more than was healthy and that at age 78 he was not so young any more.  Still it was a shock to the country when he had his first mini-stroke.  He insisted on returning to work a few days after being discharged from the hospital, and a couple of weeks later had a massive brain hemorrhage.  He is now considered to be in a vegetative state and it is expected that he will be transferred to a long term care facility.

I remember when I was a kid, around Lincoln’s birthday the Sunday supplement of the newspaper would often have a lengthy article about his assassination and the follow-up care.  I don’t remember the details, other than there were questions about conspiracies in the hospital not to save Lincoln.  Some of you may also remember when Jack Kennedy was killed in 1963, there were questions about the care that he received in the hospital.  Do you think it’s any different here?

The furor seems to have died down, but for days it seems that every doctor in the country was second guessing the care that the Prime Minister received and everyone would have done it differently. Hadassah was also criticized for not making all the details available to the public after the first mini-stroke, even though it was obvious that Sharon himself insisted on returning to work too soon, and demanded that he be allowed to go to his ranch the day of the major stroke, even though wisdom dictated that he should remain in Jerusalem.  As the information gradually emerged, it was evident that because of the numerous cardio-vascular problems, any type of treatment would be a judgment call, and each treatment could create anticipated and unanticipated problems.

For days after the cerebral hemorrhage, the newspapers were filled with stories about Arik’s biography and his legacy.  No one expected that he would be able to return to the government.

Life goes on
Back in my community leadership days, I used to say that the most important job a leader had was to train her successor.

The first time I voted was for Franklin Roosevelt, then running for his fourth term I remember his newsreel pictures at the time – dark circles under his eyes, and a pallid complexion.  Would he last out his term?  He didn’t.  Nor did he prepare his Vice-President for the task ahead – winning the war and the peace to follow.  It was fortunate that Harry Truman was a truly remarkable man and quickly made himself the president and not just a successor.

When Sharon was incapacitated, most of us were apprehensive. Elections for the PA were scheduled in January and Israel was facing elections in March with a major realignment of political parties here.  Ehud Olmert was deputy PM.  Was he up to the task? The answer was YES and we have all been surprised.  We have found out during recent days that Olmert was not just holding a position but had been a confident of Sharon and had participated in the decision making about the disengagement.  Sharon did train his successor.  Since Olmert became acting Prime Minister, he has organized the new Kadima party, managing not to ruffle too many feelings of all the "would-be" parliamentarians who have joined Kadima.  He is in the process of cracking down on the militant settlers in Hebron and in the illegal settlements.  And he has impressed the foreign dignitaries visiting the country.  He may lack the charisma of Ariel Sharon, but he is growing into the job.  

Kadima continues to lead in the pre-election polls, indeed seems to be gaining support.  If Olmert is elected, he will face many challenges, but he will have a very strong group of assistants according to the new Kadima list.