By Shmuel Katz
In January 2006, I came to Israel for my nephew’s bar mitzvah. At least that was the public reason I had told people. Some people at South Shore knew that Goldie and I had been talking about the possibility of making aliyah later that year, as did some of our relatives, and I used the trip to check out neighborhood and schools and to start my job search.
A couple of days into my trip, as I was riding in a cab, there was an emergency news report (one that I did not understand and had to have translated for me by the driver). Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had suffered a massive stroke. I remember the shock I personally felt as well as the sense of stunned disbelief that I witnessed wherever I went the next couple of days.
The afternoon after the news came out, I met an old friend from YU, Rabbi Duvie Marcus, for lunch on Emek Refaim Street, an area full of restaurants and cafés area. Duvie is a nonprofit professional and I had asked him for some advice on my job hunt. As we settled in (it was a really nice day, so we were sitting outdoors), we noticed a news crew interviewing people on the street. As we enjoyed our lunch, a fellow came over to our table and introduced himself as a reporter for the BBC. He told us that they were putting together a story about the reaction of the average person to the news about Sharon and what they viewed as his legacy.
I remember telling him (on camera) that I thought that Sharon’s legacy as an outstanding leader and hero would almost certainly be overshadowed by what I thought was his disastrous decision to “withdraw” from Gaza. As I recall, Duvie said something similar and the interview ended.
We invited the reporter to sit with us and, to our surprise, he accepted. He sat with us for perhaps a half hour or forty-five minutes. He told us about being a reporter in Israel and what it meant for him to be assigned to and live in Israel (as a non-Jew). And we talked about being “Anglos” in Israel (Duvie grew up in Israel, as I recall, but is still from an Anglo family), and my family’s potential forthcoming move.
One thing that stuck with me was a comment that Duvie made about our interviews probably not going to make their final story. At the time, not being familiar with the BBC’s editorial tendencies vis-à-vis reporting on Israel, I remember wondering what he meant. Yet the reporter, while not outright agreeing, admitted that our comments were probably not what they were looking for. After the reporter left, Duvie told me that they were probably looking for someone to say how his legacy was enhanced by his transformation into a “peacemaker” or something like that.
A lot has changed for us over those eight years. We made the decision to move here and came on an official pilot trip that spring. Right after that trip, I started writing a journal of our experiences on aliyah for the Five Towns Jewish Times (a journal that was supposed to run for one year and is still running almost eight years later).
We made aliyah and you have been with us almost every step of the way. Success and failure. Illness and health. Times of war and times of quiet. The range of experience is incredible.
Gilad Shalit was seized and held for five years. We fought two wars, one to the north and another to our west. We have been threatened and terrorized; lives have been lost to terror and violence—a continuing tragedy of our country. One would think that with all this, Ariel Sharon’s legacy would be clearly understood by now.
It is eight years later and I think that the jury is still out on this. If you read the media here, you would think that he is universally beloved for his transformation from fighter to peacemaker. Yet the same split of opinions seems to prevail.
The media here generally represent the Left’s opinion and don’t always present all the sides, other than in a critical sidebar. Many continue to see things the way I did eight years ago. We have gone to war in Gaza and the long-term result of the disengagement is still somewhere in our future. It seems that history has yet to decide. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org) a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at email@example.com.