Arik Sharon has ascended on high and many are left with mixed emotions. As are all human beings, he was a complex creature, light and darkness intermingled within him. We must remember, however, that we stand before one who can be defined as a hero of Israel.
A hero of Israel: who fought with courage and strength, wisdom and ingenuity, especially during the Yom Kippur War. We are all indebted to him for his decisive role during this period.
A hero of Israel: who had a major part in the settlement of Yehudah and Shomron.
A hero of Israel: who faltered in the destruction of Gush Katif, but surely believed that he was acting in the Nation's best interest. His failures do not nullify his merits, just as the positive acts performed by Yochanan Cohain Gadol, who served for 80 years as the Cohain Gadol, were not nullified by the fact that he became a Tzeduki (a heretic, see Berachot 29a).
This hero of Israel purchased a home in the Old City of Yerushalayim - "The Sharon House" - in the so-called "Muslim Quarter". In doing so he informed us, and the entire world, that this is Jewish land, the eternal property of our forefathers, upon which others came and built without our permission and presence.
This hero of Israel, man of the military, man of settlement and man of leadership has ascended on high, and we are all indebted to him. A man of opposites has ascended on high, and we pray that he finds comfort there.
Merits of Ariel Sharon in Building
Up All Parts of the Old City of Yerushalayim
- When he served as Minister of Agricultural, Ariel Sharon purchased a large piece of land near Sha'ar Ha-Prachim (The Flower Gate) for the Jewish community, and personally advanced the final permits to build in that spot.
- He expressed his own desire to live in the Old City, and pointed out in which house he wanted to live. It later became known that two weeks prior he had made a down-payment on that very house. Known as "Beit Vitenberg," this house overlooks Ha-Gai St. in the so-called "Muslim Quarter," on the way to the Kotel. Following the murder of a Jew in the Old City, the Sharons made the final decision to live there. This was two weeks before the outbreak of the Second Intifada. For an extended period, he and his wife Lili stayed in this home two days a week. Our Rabbis, Ha-Rav Tzvi Tau and Ha-Rav Oded Valensky, saw this act as an extremely meaningful step in the State's taking possession of Yerushalayim.
- He agreed to travel outside of Israel for the sole purpose of raising money to acquire another house in the Old City, "Beit Ha-Ma'alot". Following his trip, a buyer was found. The house was purchased and Jews moved in.
- He respected the residents of the Old City for their self-sacrifice, particularly the women, who shouldered the daily burden of living there.
- As the Minister of Housing, he authorized a security company to protect the Jewish community and their homes. It continues to do so today.
- The entire merit of purchasing Ne'ot David and its community (in the so-called "Christian Quarter") is also his. He traveled outside of Israel to raise money to purchase the hotel. After the Jews moved in, and there were attacks from all sides (including the Municipality of Yerushalayim, the police and the courts,) to expel the "settlers", he personally petitioned the Prime Minister not to expel them. And they indeed remained.
- When the harsh legal battle began to remove the Jews from these homes, claiming that they were disturbing the public order, the need arose for a top-notch lawyer. When money could not be found for the retainer, Ariel Sharon personally gave $100,000, which allowed for an appeal.
- His efforts influenced the President of Israel to publicly announce that Christians have no more right to live in the Christian Quarter than do Jews, thus breaking the myth of the "Christian Quarter" and advancing the position that every place in Yerushalayim belongs to the Jews.
- He was responsible for acquiring the hotels at the entrance to the city.
- He authorized the rebuilding of the Churvah Shul in the Old City and the allocation of huge sums for both this project and the latest plan to expand the Kotel and its accessibility.