Sunday, July 01, 2012
Yitzhak Shamir, Z"L 1915-2012
Former Israeli Prime minister Yitzchak Shamir ( Z"l) passed away June 30th in Tel Aviv.
He was 96 years old, and his life encompassed the miracle of Israel's rebirth as a nation, a modern miracle in our times.From an early age, he devoted himself to that miracle.
Shamir first came to Israel in 1936 as a young man of twenty, part of the last contingents of Jews to escape Europe before the British, to their eternal shame, slammed the gates shut on Jews desperately fleeing for their lives on the eve of the Holocaust.His parents and two sisters weren't able to get out in time and were murdered by the Nazis.
Shamir was an active part in the struggle to liberate Israel from its British overlords,and was arrested twice by them, one time being deported to Africa. He escaped both times, at one point digging a a 200-foot tunnel with four other Irgun members and hiding in an oil truck for three days until it crossed the border into what was then French Somalia. He was later given asylum by the French and was able to make his way back to Israel in 1948.
Shamir served in the Mossad for a decade, and is credited with helping to reorganize and revamp the organization and make one of the top intelligence services in the world. He created the Mossad's planning division and served on its General Staff.
Yitzhak Shamir served in the Knesset, as the Knesset's speaker and as Israel foreign minister under PM Begin. He later served two terms as Israel's prime minister. Throughout all of it, he maintained a reputation for unimpeachable integrity and frugality and prided himself on his spartan lifestyle. He was tough, meticulous, and determined and never wavered in his devotion to duty or to the Jewish State.
Barry Rubin recalls a personal reminisce that sheds some light on the nature of whom Yitzhak Shamir was:
It was January 13, 1991. Everyone in the world knew that in 48 hours, a U.S.-led coalition was scheduled to attack Iraq in order to force Saddam Hussein’s withdrawal from Kuwait. Saddam had announced that if the coalition attacked he would strike at Israel with long-range missiles, possibly with biological or chemical warheads.
I was asked by a visiting American delegation to accompany it to a meeting with the prime minister. We arrived at the prime minister’s office and went to his quite modest meeting room. Along with Shamir was Elyakim Rubinstein, then the cabinet secretary but today a Supreme Court justice. I won’t tell you his name but the group’s leader, let’s call him Mr. Bird, later held high diplomatic positions in the U.S. government.
Shamir sought to break the ice with a friendly question. “So,” he said to the delegation’s leader, “how long are you planning to be here? A week?”
I don’t know if he was joking about the impending deadline but a look of pure fear and panic leaped onto Mr. Bird’s face. “Are you kidding!” His voice shook with dismay. “We’re getting out of here tomorrow!” (Those were his precise words.)
Almost immediately, however, he realized that he was making himself look like a fool. He tried to calm down and recover. So he added, albeit with equal ham-handedness, “But I guess you have to stay here.” (Honest, that’s what he said.)
Rubinstein answered with a big smile on his face: “Oh, no. We don’t have to stay here. We just happen to like it here.” I will never forget the even bigger smile on Shamir’s face. Mr. Bird and all the little birds who fancied themselves great statesmen and Middle East experts had no idea what had just happened.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Yitchak Shamir that "He was a paragon of loyalty to the Land of Israel and the eternal values of the Jewish people."
"Yitzhak Shamir belongs to a generation of giants, who founded the State of Israel and fought for the freedom of the Jewish people in its land," Netanyahu said. "He led Israel with deep loyalty to both the people and the land."
A giant. That pretty much covers it.