There have been a number of articles and posts written about Arik Sharon by people who not only empathize but also bear the pain, the hardship, the turmoil and the suffering of the thousands of Jews who were uprooted from their homes in Gush Katif and northern Shomron back in 2005.

The feeling among many that Sharon betrayed the settler community which he himself actively supported and spearheaded is very much tangible. Though the pullout from Gaza occurred eight years ago, the repercussions are still felt today on so many levels from personal to national.

Nevertheless, and I write this from my home in the Judean hills, I feel a tremendous loss with the passing of Arik Sharon. He was a giant among the warriors of Israel. He was a leader that radiated courage, daring and sagacity. And while many can lament his last decision to pull out of Gush Katif, none can argue that he selflessly devoted his life to his Land and to his people.

The passing of Arik Sharon profoundly drives home the fact that we today in Israel would be hard pressed to find within our current leadership a lion of Israel such as he.

Years ago, as far back as 1995, I had an opportunity to meet Arik Sharon. He was the key-note speaker at a One Israel Fund dinner in New York City that sought to raise funds for the Jewish communities throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza. As I was very active in raising awareness and much monetary support for that endeavor I was given the honor to have a photo-op with him. I recall smiling meekly as I was all too cognizant that I stood in the presence of one who was indeed larger than life.

I was never prone to hero-worship and I didn’t idolize Arik Sharon, but one could not help but feel the extraordinary aura of a man who more than once boldly and valiantly stole victory from the jaws of our enemy. He epitomized the “new Jew” and his intrepid exploits and military strategic prowess were prominent in strengthening the backbone of a Jewish nation still licking its wounds from the hell fires of Europe.

But, he was also human. And yes, I do believe that his last major decision to uproot Gush Katif and pull out of Gaza was a huge mistake. It breaks the heart how one so mighty and courageous can stumble and fall. It was a tragic failing for the nation of Israel, one that we are still paying for.

Yet, I will miss the pillar of strength that Arik Sharon surely was, and I believe he deserves our deepest respect despite the perception among many that he fell short at his final test. Perhaps, that’s easy for me to say, since I wasn’t among those dragged from my home. But, I also tend to think in a spiritual sense that as Arik Sharon’s soul hovered over his hospital bed during these past eight years, it was possibly God’s way to grant his soul sufficient time to atone for that last deed. Don’t ask me for any Kabbalistic or Torah sources for that one. I have none. However, according to the Arizal, (Renowned Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria 1534-1572) one who dies on Shabbat does so free of sin and is considered a tzaddik, a righteous person.

With the news of Arik Sharon’s passing this past Shabbat, my instinctive reaction was that of being hit with a profound loss….A loss of a caring, noble and protective father who devoted every fiber of his being to his people – a loss of a true warrior of Israel, a lion of Israel who lived up to the meaning of his name.

Arik Sharon, may your memory be blessed and may your soul be embraced by the heavens above and finally rest in peace.