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September 14, 2002

First in War

As a former army field commander, Ariel Sharon puts great stock in holding the physical high ground, controlling the lines of sight and measuring distances in terms of artillery range. But those military doctrines are deployed in the service of more basic beliefs, developed during his years of growing up just north of Tel Aviv on a moshav, a small semicooperative agricultural community, during the years of the British mandate, when Israel's eventual statehood was far from a certainty and Jewish survival on the land seemed a daily battle against harsh conditions and hostile neighbors.

That sense of embattlement was particularly intense in young Arik's own family, where his prickly and suspicious Russian Jewish father distrusted not just the Arabs and the British but many Jewish farmers on the moshav as well. This upbringing forged in Sharon both his aggressive individualism and a hard view of what Zionism requires of both Israeli Jews and the worldwide Jewish diaspora. It also gave rise to his belief that only when Jews show they will fight to defend their land will their Arab neighbors respect them and let them live in peace. For full book review on Ariel Sharon, see
[url] NY Times, reg req'd.