It has been eight years nearly to the day that Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke and slipped into a coma. I know this without checking Google, or even reading the Times of Israel. I know this because as this hero of the Jewish People and former Prime Minister of the State of Israel was being wheeled unconscious into an operating theatre, my wife and I were heading into the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, London, for the rather lengthy delivery of our first born son.
So as my colleagues at the Israeli Embassy, where I worked in the Public Affairs Department, frantically began drafting obituaries and press statements, the world’s media amassed on the steps of the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, and I was left reflecting on the dichotomy I was experiencing. Life and death were taking place before my eyes. With Aliyah date already booked, I knew that my soon to be born son was a future Israeli – a child in an Israeli school, a soldier in the Israeli army, and Please G-d a father to Israeli children. And here as he entered the world, a man who had given his whole life to make that reality possible was fighting for his.
Of course we know now that Ariel Sharon remained on life support and according to some reports even exhibited brain activity. Yet for eight years now, he has lain undisturbed, effectively asleep, and I cannot but help, as reports of his deterioration emerge, reflect on how the world has changed in those eight years.
Arik, while you were sleeping, my son was born. We named him Avishai Yona, combining the warrior of King David’s army with the Hebrew word for dove, the symbol of peace, just as you were a warrior of Israel and sought to bring peace to our troubled land.
Arik, while you were sleeping, we came to live in Israel. We made Aliyah and set up our home in the land of our forefathers. And we are not alone, each year, Jews continue to come home – the dream of Aliyah which you supported so staunchly, remains alive and well.
But Arik, while you were sleeping we have had wars. We have fought the terrorists in the territories from which you led our disengagement. Our brothers and sisters in the south have endured the horror of thousands of missiles and hundreds of nights in bomb shelters. And then we had to go back to Gaza, but this time not set up homes and build communities, but dressed in green and fighting – and more lives were lost, and more mothers grieved for their children.
We had to fight to the north, and again lost many lives of our brave soldiers, as we sought to end another threat to the people of Israel.
These battles continue, quiet and then not, calm and then not – always a threat to our security.
Arik, while you were sleeping the Arab world was turned upside down with protests and revolutions to form a landscape you would surely barely recognise.
And even here Arik, while you were sleeping, the people have been on the streets – protesting about the economic pressures faced each day by millions of your people.
As for me Arik, while you were sleeping, I have begun to raise a son, and have been blessed with another. We have faced illness and sad times, and we have enjoyed happy occasions.
But Arik, most of all, while you were sleeping, Israel has continued to blossom. Yes, we have faced difficulties, political and economic, societal and security – but we continue to be a light unto the nations.
Sleep well Prime Minister. Sleep well.