Nearly a year ago, former Prime Minister and general Ariel “Arik” Sharon finally succumbed to his long illness and coma and he died.  I won’t go into Sharon’s contributions, and he certainly had his share, or his pre-Prime Minister controversies, and there were a few of those too.  I will simply say that in my opinion, he was a better general (in fact a great general) than he was a politician.  One of Sharon’s legacies unfortunately, was his decision to have Israel withdraw its people all at once from the Gaza Strip and do so with nothing in return.  Now I have for a long time thought that Israeli control over Gaza City was untenable, that the population there was too toxic and just too difficult to control.  But I also felt that Israel’s just leaving the whole Gaza as was done and without any concrete assurances or concessions from the other side was not wise and was completely irresponsible.  Many thought this way.

Sharon shifted from right to left, played a very shrewd political game to force his will, and orchestrated one of the most painful things I have ever witnessed.  In the summer of 2005, Jews who created industry and life in the desert and by the shore of the Gaza Strip, away from Gaza City, were forcibly removed from their homes and synagogues. Jewish soldiers and police battled their own brethren and in many cases dragged people away.  Torahs were removed, and the 18 year old cemetery was evacuated as well.

We all know what happened.  After the withdrawal, the people of Gaza looted and destroyed what had been left for them, purchased by Jewish philanthropists so that an economy could blossom as had the fruits of those Israelis who lived in Kush Gatif and Kfar Yam, and Neve Dekalim and Nisanit, and 17 other communities.  The Gaza Strip was taken over by Hamas and became a launching pad for terrorism above and below ground.

When Gaza became the terrorist enclave that it still is today, I remembered a conversation I had had with a co-worker back in the 80’s, who once said to me, “Maybe Israel should leave Gaza and if and when all goes to hell and Jews are killed, the world will see that Israel tried and then the world will be on Israel’s side.”  I took offense of course, that there could be any callousness when it came to Jewish lives, and I also argued strenuously that the world had proven time and again that it will never give a damn about Israel or Jews.  That nothing will ever be enough in fact, until the Land of Israel is cleansed of Jews.  For some, until the whole world was cleansed of Jews. That co-worker, who actually was a decent man believe it or not, died some years back.  I wish he were alive today so I could talk to him and remind him of his words.

As Gaza has indeed gone to hell, as butchers much like ISIS control a people many who are only too willing to let them do so, as thousands of Israelis have been murdered and maimed by a terrorism industry controlled, armed and supported by Hamas and its benefactor Iran, I have revisited my opinion of the Gaza withdrawal.  What if Israel had stayed in control of Gaza?  What if Israel gave up the city but kept the communities that had been built? Or what if Israel had left in protracted, deliberate, carefully-orchestrated stages, not leaving a vacuum behind, but some kind of incremental Palestinian, or other entity, security apparatus?  Would any of that have helped?  Is Israel better off for having cut and run?

To those who want to kill Jews and destroy the tiny Jewish State, Israeli concessions not only leave a void rapidly filled, but decisions for peace are never seen as beneficent but looked at as weakness.  This is a fragility that unfortunately invites the rockets and the tunnels and the savages whose mission in life is to pursue death, the death of Jews and their own deaths as long as they take Jews with them.

And so I get to Ayala Shapira. A child, an 11 year old Israeli girl, who was riding with her father in a car that was stopped and firebombed. In fact, one of the two terrorists involved purposely went to her side of the vehicle to throw his Molotov cocktail directly at her. Ayala, still in critical condition having suffered third-degree burns over much of her body and face, lies in a hospital bed having already undergone one surgery of no doubt many more to come.  There may be Palestinians who want to live side by side with Israel, or in Israel proper, in peace.  But there are too many Palestinians in Gaza, and in and around Israel, whose bloodthirsty nature makes it difficult if not impossible to have any real hope for tranquility. These are the ones who gleefully target and burn Jewish children.

This past year saw the latest in a series of Israel/Hamas wars, this one begun after Hamas operatives kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah.  Hamas terrorists in Gaza, when not trying to kill Israelis by rockets or by tunnels, incessantly recruit like-minded “human animals,” a term used by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to butcher innocents, whether in a stroller at a bus stop or in prayer at a synagogue.  It doesn’t matter to these post-Hitler, modern-day Nazis, as long as another Jew is slaughtered.

Sometimes what is remembered about someone after a passing are not all the accomplishments achieved over a lifetime, but the very bad decisions made near the end of the life. Ariel Sharon’s legacy includes some amazing things, and some tragic as well.

Refuah Shleima, Ayala.  May you have a speedy and complete recovery.