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Arik
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Arik
The Life of Ariel Sharon
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From the former editor in chief of Haaretz, the first in-depth comprehensive biography of Ariel Sharon, the most important Israeli political and military leader of the last forty years.

The life of Ariel Sharon spans much of modern Israel's history: A commander in the Israeli Army from its inception in 1948, Sharon participated in the 1948 War of Independence, and played decisive roles in the 1956 Suez War and the six day War of 1967, and most dramatically is largely credited with the shift in the outcome of the Yom Kippur War of 1973. After returning from the army in 1982, Sharon became a political leader and served in numerous governments, most prominently as the defense minister during the 1983 Lebanon War in which he bore "personal responsibility" according to the Kahan Commission for massacres of Palestinian civilians by Lebanese militia, and he championed the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. But as prime minister he performed a dramatic reversal: orchestrating Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Landau brilliantly chronicles and analyzes his surprising about-face. Sharon suffered a stroke in January 2006 and remains in a persistent vegetative state. Considered by many to be Israel's greatest military leader and political statesman, this biography recounts his life and shows how this leadership transformed Israel, and how Sharon's views were shaped by the changing nature of Israeli society.

From the former editor in chief of Haaretz, the first in-depth comprehensive biography of Ariel Sharon, the most important Israeli political and military leader of the last forty years.

The life of Ariel Sharon spans much of modern Israel's history: A commander in the Israeli Army from its inception in 1948, Sharon participated in the 1948 War of Independence, and played decisive roles in the 1956 Suez War and the six day War of 1967, and most dramatically is largely credited with the shift in the outcome of the Yom Kippur War of 1973. After returning from the army in 1982, Sharon became a political leader and served in numerous governments, most prominently as the defense minister during the 1983 Lebanon War in which he bore "personal responsibility" according to the Kahan Commission for massacres of Palestinian civilians by Lebanese militia, and he championed the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. But as prime minister he performed a dramatic reversal: orchestrating Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Landau brilliantly chronicles and analyzes his surprising about-face. Sharon suffered a stroke in January 2006 and remains in a persistent vegetative state. Considered by many to be Israel's greatest military leader and political statesman, this biography recounts his life and shows how this leadership transformed Israel, and how Sharon's views were shaped by the changing nature of Israeli society.

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Excerpts-
  • Preface · Land of Hope Preface · Land of Hope
     
    My grandfather was a Hebrew teacher in Rehovot at the beginning of the last century.” Ariel Sharon, corpulent, white-haired, looked up over his reading glasses at the half-full Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Members were listening politely or quietly reading. “I have a deep love for the Hebrew language,” he read on in his incongruously high-pitched voice. “For the miracle of its revival, for the historical wellsprings from which it draws its words and phrases.”
     
    There was no tension in the chamber that afternoon in January 2005. No catcalls, no heckling. A parliamentary moment without politics. Sharon could have asked one of his two deputy prime ministers to represent the government at the largely ceremonial debate marking Hebrew Language Day. But he wanted to speak himself. He had a point to make.
     
    Mordechai Scheinerman, Sharon’s grandfather, came to Palestine in 1910 and settled with his wife and children in the still-tiny Jewish village of Rehovot, southeast of the barely existent Jewish town of Tel Aviv. That made him sort of aristocracy. Not quite a Mayflower man of the First Aliya (1882–1902), but still an early Zionist pioneer of pre–World War I days. Palestine was a derelict corner of the crumbling Ottoman Empire then. The dream of the Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl (d. 1904), that it would one day become a Jewish state, seemed just that: a dream.
     
    In his native town, Brest Litovsk in White Russia, Mordechai was an early convert to Zionism. He became a Hebrew teacher. That was a career choice reflecting real commitment. Hebrew, the ancient language of the Bible and the rabbis, was struggling to reincarnate itself as a modern vernacular. The Zionists promoted it as the language of the new-old Jewish nationalism. But the Zionists themselves were a struggling minority within the Jewish people. Millions of Jews, fleeing czarist oppression, set sail for the New World rather than for sandy, sweaty Palestine.
     
    Mordechai Scheinerman endured the heat and mosquitoes of Rehovot for two years, then packed up, as did so many of the early pioneers, and headed back to Brest Litovsk. When war broke out, the family fled east, ending up in Tbilisi, Georgia. His faith in Zionism never wavered, though, and he instilled it in his son Samuil. Samuil Scheinerman taught Hebrew too, but, chastened by his father’s experience, he studied agronomy at the local university as a practical prepa- ration for his own eventual aliya.* (* Literally, “ascent”; the Hebrew term for immigration to Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel.)
     
    This came more quickly than planned. Walking toward the Tbilisi Zionist club, where he held his Hebrew classes, one night in 1921, he found the area swarming with security police of the newly formed communist government. He veered away, hastened to the home of his girlfriend, Vera Schneeroff, and offered her two peremptory proposals: marriage and aliya. She was a fourth-year medical student, the daughter of a well-to-do Jewish family, also from Belarus, and, by her own admission, not much of a Zionist. But she accepted Samuil’s plan. They were married forthwith and fled to the Black Sea port of Baku, from where, some months later, they embarked for Palestine.
     
    Samuil had completed his studies in Tbilisi; Vera nursed the hope that she would graduate someday too, perhaps at the University of Beirut since there were no universities or medical schools in Palestine. On a bleak February day in 1922 they arrived in Jaffa. Vera, to her consternation, was lifted bodily from boat...

About the Author-
  • DAVID LANDAU immigrated to Israel from the United Kingdom as a young man. His career in journalism began in 1972 at The Jerusalem Post, and he joined Haaretz in 1993 as news editor. He was the founder and editor in chief of the Haaretz's English edition from 1997 to 2004, and is currently the Israel correspondent for The Economist. Landau collaborated with Israel's president, Shimon Peres, on his memoir, Battling for Peace (Random House, 1995). He published, with President Peres, Ben-Gurion, A Political Biography (Nextbook/Schocken, 2012). He is the author of Piety and Power (1993), an account of the increasingly significant role the ultra-orthodox ("haredi") play in Israel, the United States, and Europe. Landau graduated in law from University College, London and studied in leading yeshivas in Israel. Landau is married with children and grandchildren and currently lives in Jerusalem.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 6, 2014
    Compiling the life of a man who was a commander, officer, and major general in the Israeli Army in addition to a statesman, party leader, and prime minister in the Israeli government is an intimidating undertaking, particularly when that man, now at age 85, is struggling to stay alive while in the comatose state he's been in since 2006. However, journalist Landau, who previously collaborated with Israeli president Shimon Peres on his memoir, succeeds dutifully in bringing this multi-faceted life to the page. With great research and noticeable interest, Landau depicts Ariel Sharon as a man who is more complex than any one of his multitude of titles and the subsequent criticism he endured as a public servant. Landau's portrait is primarily career-focused examining Sharon's lengthy service in the Israeli Defense Forces during the Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War, and his equal tenure as minister of portfolios including defense, foreign affairs, and concluding as prime minister over the disengagement of the Gaza Strip. All the while, Landau depicts Israeli societal welfare through the same wars and political unrest—sometimes caused, sometimes curbed by Sharon. Although Landau's portrait is primarily career-focused, he explores the toll of personal tragedy on Sharon's life including the loss of his first and second wife and the untimely death of his young son, Gur, as well as the societal impact of the many soldiers and civilian casualties. Ariel Sharon has come to represent Israel during its modern changes and he continues to as they both fight on.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from November 15, 2013
    Economist Israel correspondent and former Haaretz editor in chief Landau (Piety and Power: The World of Jewish Fundamentalism, 1992, etc.) offers a thorough, extremely candid description and assessment of the military and political lives of the controversial Sharon, who has been in a vegetative state since a massive stroke in 2006. The author, who has also collaborated with Shimon Peres on his memoir (Battling for Peace, 1995) and on a biography of David Ben-Gurion (2012), displays a deep familiarity with the details and contexts of Sharon's career. Throughout, he prepares us for the stroke in 2006: He calls Sharon "corpulent" in the preface, titles the first chapter "Poor Little Fat Boy" and describes Sharon's considerable appetite and girth. The early chapters are full of military lore. Landau describes battles and strategy in great detail, clearly examining Sharon's roles and unafraid to judge. He mentions, for example, a "heinous act of violence" involving some Bedouin in 1972. The author continues to hold Sharon's feet to the fire right to very end, suggesting things the fallen leader might have accomplished had he been less, well, Sharon-ian. Landau is also adept in the descriptions of the labyrinthine political world of Israel during Sharon's era. We see, as well, his questionable financial dealings (prosecutors took hard looks at his behavior more than once), his gifts as a politician and his failures as a human being. The author does not focus so much on his personal life, though we learn about the accidental death of his son and his wife's succumbing to cancer. We also see the softening, leftish moves he made late in his career--moves that pleased many and infuriated others--especially the decision to close 21 settlements in Gaza in 2005. Splendid reporting, comprehensive research and probing analysis inform this unblinking view of a complicated man and a sanguinary geography.

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2014

    British/Israeli journalist Landau (former editor in chief, Haaretz; Piety and Power: The World of Jewish Fundamentalism) seeks to elucidate the military, political, and social history of Israel by focusing on the life and impact of Ariel Sharon (b. 1928). Having interviewed a wide range of people who knew Sharon and offer their opinions of his actions, military and political, Landau presents a veritable Who's Who of Israel over the last several decades. He succeeds in giving the reader a truly human portrait of one of Israel's greatest and most controversial leaders. Most fascinating is Landau's analysis of Sharon's transition from being the "father of the settlements" to being the leader most responsible for removing Jewish settlements from Sinai, Gaza, and (before his disabling stroke in 2006) some of the West Bank. The results are a better balanced assessment of Sharon--with quotations from his admirers and detractors--than, for example, Max Blumenthal's Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel or even Ari Shavit's My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, in which Sharon figures significantly. Replete with both footnote explanations of everything from Hebrew terms and acronyms to the past affiliations of political players and endnote source citations, the book also has an appendix containing the full text of significant documents pertaining to the Israel-Palestine conflict since 1967. VERDICT Very much of interest to anyone concerned with the past, present, and future of modern Israel.--Joel Neuberg, Santa Rosa Junior Coll. Lib., CA

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from December 15, 2013
    Since his massive stroke in January 2006, Ariel Sharon has remained in a persistent vegetative state. Given the strong passions and controversy he engendered as both a military and political leader, it is perhaps surprising that many Israelis from each side of the political divide look back on his career and personality favorably. Landau has written for both Right and Left newspapers in Israel and is currently the Israel correspondent for the Economist. His thorough, balanced, and scrupulously fair biography makes clear why Sharon was capable of winning respect and admiration, even from his staunch political opponents. In recounting Sharon's youth, Landau reveals Sharon as always prepared to swim against the tide, as he and his family resisted the pressures of nearby kibbutzim to maintain the independence of their farm. As a military leader, he was rash, occasionally brutal, and sometimes defiant of superiors, but at critical moments, especially during the Yom Kippur War, he was decisive and brilliant. As prime minister, despite his earlier promotion of settlement activity, he dismantled settlements and withdrew from Gaza. This is an outstanding, warts-and-all portrait of an arguably great, if not a particularly likable, Israeli leader.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

  • Kirkus (starred review) "A thorough, extremely candid description and assessment of the military and political lives of the controversial Sharon, who has been in a vegetative state since a massive stroke in 2006. The author...displays a deep familiarity with the details and contexts of Sharon's career....[and] is also adept in the descriptions of the labyrinthine political world of Israel during Sharon's era. Splendid reporting, comprehensive research and probing analysis inform this unblinking view of a complicated man and a sanguinary geography."
  • Jay Freeman, Booklist (starred review) "[Landau's] thorough, balanced, and scrupulously fair biography makes clear why Sharon was capable of winning respect and admiration, even from his staunch political opponents....This is an outstanding, warts-and-all portrait of an arguably great, if not a particularly likable, Israeli leader."
  • Leslie Susser, The Jerusalem Report "As U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in his moving eulogy, Ariel Sharon's life mirrored the trajectory of Israel's. David Landau's colorful, insightful, and deftly written biography does justice to the historic sweep....Landau brings considerable analytic gifts to bear in explaining the contradictions and vicissitudes of the complex man who evolved from brilliantly unorthodox but unruly solider, radiating controversy, recalcitrance and naked aggression, to become Israel's sober and grandfatherly 11th prime minister, and who, in so doing, morphed from the bête noire of Landau's own center-left milieu to the standard bearer they believed would have the strength to bear peace....In Landau's view, the two-state battle is not yet over, and Sharon could yet emerge the winner."
  • Publishers Weekly "Compiling the life of a man who was a commander, officer, and major general in the Israeli Army in addition to a statesman, party leader, and prime minister in the Israeli government is an intimidating undertaking, particularly when that man, now at age 85, is struggling to stay alive while in the comatose state he's been in since 2006. However, journalist Landau, who previously collaborated with Israeli president Shimon Peres on his memoir, succeeds dutifully in bringing this multifaceted life to the page. With great research and noticeable interest, Landau depicts Ariel Sharon as a man who is more complex than any one of his multitude of titles and the subsequent criticism he endured as a public servant."
  • Sandee Brawarsky, The Jewish Week "Compelling....Others have written about Sharon, including journalist Uri Dan, a confidante of Sharon ("Ariel Sharon: An Intimate Portrait," 2006); his son Gilad ("Sharon: The Life of a Leader," 2011); and Sharon himself penned a memoir ("Warrior," 1989). But Landau's is the most objective and nuanced book assessing the life."
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