Ariel Sharon has been wounded more often on the printed page than on the battlefield, culminating in several long-ago libel suits. But in his latest incarnation as foreign minister, the old soldier is gathering some unexpected garlands.
A profile by Lucinda Franks in New York magazine (Jan. 4) notes that Sharon ó once a political pariah after his 1982 invasion of Lebanon ó is now the embodiment of Zionís sweetest mythology, ìthe last of the original Israeli pioneers still in the political arena. He has lived Israelís history, forging a Jewish homeland from the desert, ingeniously farming and populating it, passionately defending its territory.î
He is acknowledged as ìone of Israelís most brilliant generals,î but itís his personality that now has Washington perking up. Sharon, ìwho possesses a disarming charm to accompany his military gifts, has nurtured a warm relationship with the president and his advisors. Sharonís plainspoken, decisive style ó in a sharp contrast to Netanyahuís vacillations ó has pushed the sputtering peace process forward, if more slowly than Washington wants.î (This week, however, Sharonís ìwarmî relationship with the administration chilled as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reportedly snubbed the foreign minister in his attempt to meet with her during his upcoming visit to the U.S.)
The reporter quotes Clinton cabinet member Bill Richardson: ìSharon may be a hard-liner but his word is good and heís somebody one immediately respects.îAccording to a member of the U.S. Wye negotiating team, President Clinton was ìfascinatedî with the old general: ìYouíd find them together telling stories about their childhoods, knocking back cans of soda long past midnight. Sharon is the kind of missing father Clinton is drawn to. He was in awe of his military exploits, his visionary qualities. They both grew up poor and they share a creative flare for finding unusual solutions.î
Sharonís sense of honor kept him from shaking Yasir Arafatís hand, a point that ìgratedî American negotiators. Nevertheless, the article points out that Sharon has had excellent relations ìwith leaders he vanquished,î such as Anwar Sadat and King Hussein.Perhaps the peace process has come full circle, the article implies, needing Rabinís handshake five years ago, needing Sharonís honorable obstinance now.ìLook,î Sharon is quoted as saying, ìthere is so much hatred here in our country, it cannot be covered over by Band-Aids or false sentiment.în
Where have all the flowers gone? Liberal Jewish men are abandoning the synagogue in droves, according to ìReal Men Read Rashi,î a feature story in the current issue of The Bínai Bírith International Jewish Monthly (Nov.-Dec.).Conservative Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom tells Jewish Monthly, ìWith the egalitarian movement in Judaism, I think many of my colleagues and I have noticed a drifting of men to the sidelines.îA few months ago, egalitarian rabbis literally rewrote the traditional Conservative prayerbook, inserting the Matriarchs into prayers where they hadnít been before, and authoring new translations that eliminated Godís masculine image as father or king while nevertheless retaining images of brides and queens.ìI think there are some alarming trends ó itís spotty, anecdotal ó that men may increasingly see the sanctuary as a womanís place,î warns Douglas Barden, executive director of the Reform movementís North American Federation of Temple Brotherhoods.Reform Rabbi Allan Tuffs tells Jewish Monthly that ìWhen the feminist movement began to analyze the place of women in society, the feminists correctly recognized the destructive influence that patriarchy had on women. But I think they identified all things male as being suspect. And I think many liberal men, which includes most Jewish men in America, who sympathized with the womenís cause, experienced a certain confusion about the meaning of manhood within the Jewish context.î
The Orthodox rabbis who are quoted in the article say the problem is not an issue in their community, where egalitarianism has been more gradual.nThe Christmas season, in darker, distant times, used to be open season on Jews. That is no longer the case, but an ugly passion play did rear its head in Newsdayís op-ed section (Dec. 21). Is impeachment crucifixion?As quoted in the National Review, which tagged it an outrage, Diane McWhorter compares those supporting impeachment with the alleged conspirators against Jesus, those ìSadducees of the Jewish nation, the reactionary vested interests who carried out their narrow agenda through a strict interpretation of Jewish lawÖînMost traffic stories coming out of Washington Heights this year have been about happy Dominicans with soapy windshields celebrating Sammy Sosaís home runs. Actually, a bad moon is rising in that Upper Manhattan neighborhood, with a series of car accidents that could lead to something racial and dangerous, as traffic accidents in New York have been known to do.The current (undated, late December) issue of The Commentator, Yeshiva Universityís undergraduate newspaper, reports that in the just-concluded semester three YU students have been hit by cars speeding on Amsterdam Avenue where it bisects the campus for two blocks. The streets are legally closed to non-school traffic during designated hours, but the ordinance, says the Commentator, hasnít been enforced for years: ìDrivers regularly speed through … while throngs of students are crossing the street.îAt one point, hundreds of demonstrating students massed in protest and blocked cars from passing. The police response? On Dec. 10, a YU student, of all people, was ticketed when he pulled his car out of a YU garage and stopped in the controversial traffic zone to pick up fellow students outside a YU dorm. The Commentator reports suggestions that the ticketing incident ìmay have had anti-Semitic overtones,î and was in retaliation for the protest.A Commentator editorial asked that the schoolís trustees ìwho vetoed the suburban campus locations on Long Island and in New Jersey [to] please come forward and attempt to ameliorate the consequences of choosing this blighted neighborhood…îAll parties involved have been working to restore a safer traffic flow and safety at the campus. The student, meanwhile, is fighting the ticket, says the Commentator.