I vividly remember the first time I met Yitzchak Shamir – He was the Prime Minister of the State of Israel and I was a 16 year old boy. The year was 1990, I had recently joined the Betar movement of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and Shamir addressed my small group of Betarim during a trip to New York City. He spent an hour with us and spoke of the importance of Zionism, the need to support the State of Israel and live as proud Jews.
I remember thinking that it seemed unbelievable for a Prime Minister to be so devoted to the Betar movement – but I later came to understand that he was a man of greatness and clarity, who believed in the value of ideology and whose word meant something. I was blessed to have met him a number of times subsequently – and being around this, strong, determined man, I always felt his simple, sheer resilience. He conveyed such clarity and purity – clearly not a modern politican whose decision making was guided by opinion polls.
Before Israel became a state, he served heroically in the underground, and then in the Mossad (Israel secret service). His death today marks the death of a true Jewish hero, of a man who devoted his life to the Jewish people. Simply, he was a great man.
Shamir, whose name means “hard stone,” always said, “I would like to be remembered as a person who loved Eretz Israel and never ever gave up an inch.” He was a tough Jew, who deserves to be remembered as a pillar of our people. He followed the visionary ideology set in place by Ze’ev Jabotinsky years before him, and was consistent in his insistence that Israel needed to convey firmness and resilience. Reality matters – not personalities or slogans.
He brought clarity to so many important issues:
“Everybody loves to present himself and its noble as a ‘peace loving person.’ Of course Arafat or Assad speak about their peace. In Israel, the members of ‘peace now’ speak about ‘peace.’ One can even say that there is in the Theater of the Absurd even ‘peace mongers.’ Peace is an empty slogan if you do not put a real substance into it. The Israeli left has overblown the term ‘peace’ for its own political needs while portraying the ‘right’ as the antagonist to peace. It reminds me of the Soviet Union’s methods of operation – Lenin coined the slogan that captured the hearts of the Russian people: Peace and Land.”
“In general, life for us as individuals is characterized by eternal struggle even if at times it is conducted in peaceful ways. We will not be able to survive if we are not prepared for constant struggle. The anthem of the Lehi states: ‘Only death will remove you from the front.”
Shamir was truly a patriot and a great man. He shall be remembered as a Jewish hero whose leadership is sorely missed.