|Yitzhak Shamir, of blessed memory, whose legacy includes the airlifting of 14,000 Ethiopian Jews|
•About a year ago, I was standing with Yitzhak Shamir's son, Yair, at a reception in Tel Aviv. At the end of our conversation, Yair said to me: "People ask, 'Must the sword devour forever?' And the answer is 'Yes, it will.'" I was dumbstruck. In the American, suburban home in which I was raised, we were taught that war was an aberration. Conflict is solvable.
•Yair's startling comment, one his father surely would have made, was a reminder of what has undoubtedly been the single most difficult dimension of making aliyah - learning to accept, however grudgingly, that the moral assumptions of my old life are wholly inapplicable to the place my family now calls home. The Middle East is not a Hebrew-speaking version of the comfortable, safe, suburban Baltimore in which I'd been raised. I had moved, Yair unintentionally reminded me, from the land of Jeffersonian optimism to the land of hard-edged biblical realism.
•Ours is not the world that Shamir and his generation inherited. Ours is a world in which the Jews are secure, and largely safe, in no small measure as a result of what those men and women did. Are we foolish enough to imagine that the British relinquished their hold on the colonies because early colonial Americans signed petitions? American Revolutionary heroes knew exactly what Shamir and others knew: The British would leave when the costs became too high.
•Yitzhak Shamir knew what he had seen, both in Europe and then in the Arab world, and he knew what it meant. He was no less ambivalent about the Arabs than he was about the Poles and refused to vote for Begin's peace treaty with Egypt. He thought Israel was paying far too high a price. Today, with the Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power in Cairo and with Israel now missing the Sinai as a buffer, is it possible that he was right?
The writer is Senior Vice President at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.