In life and now in death, Ariel Sharon is a divisive figure.
He has been equally vilified and praised politically, although he has been widely regarded militarily as a strong and determined leader.
Adi Vinner, Sharon’s Communications Specialist at the time of the Yom Kippur War, spoke to euronews’ Tokunbo Salako about his experiences.
Tokunbo Salako, euronews:
“What can you tell me about what it was like to actually work with Ariel Sharon and to serve with him at that time? And how pivotal was his role?”
Adi Vinner, Communications Specialist:
“First of all, it was like working with a living legend. When I came to work with him in the war, he was already a living legend; and his legacy derived from the 101 Commando Unit, which he created, and the Six Day War in 1967.
“So, by the time I came to work with him, I was working with a legend. He looked like a giant, physically and morally. And his contribution in the 1973 Yom Kippur War was basically that he turned the war around when he crossed the Suez Canal against instructions from his superiors. He was completely the most pivotal person in this war.”
“As you lived and served in close quarters with him for that period of two months, what was his relationship like with the other soldiers – the lower ranks and junior officers?”
“Almost “father-like”. He would go out at night and check if people were sleeping. He greeted people and ate with the people. He did not have an officers mess, or anything of that sort. He was very affable and very communicative. Father-like and teddy bear-like.
“As tough as he was, we thought of him really as a teddy bear.”
“I also have heard that there was quite a famous incident among people who were serving with him at the time, involving two cows…”
That’s correct. After the war ended, we noticed all the stray cows that were walking around on the west bank of the Suez Canal. We were amongst butchers. The cows were shot, they were dressed, they were prepared and then the medical officers came and said: “No, you can’t touch this food. It’s not tested. It could be bad food for you.” And so on, and so forth. They actually stopped the party before it started.
“Somebody ran to Sharon and told him what was happening and he came back with the medical officer in tow, actually sat him down at the table, put salt on his steak and started eating. Sharon told the medical officer to eat as well. Then, of course, all of us joined in and it was a great party.
“But that was the kind of man he was. The rules did not matter. If the soldiers wanted to eat, they would get their food.”
“It has been said that he was somebody – and that story perhaps typifies it – who had no respect for the rules. Is that how you will remember him?”
“No. I don’t think he had no respect for the rules. I believe that he believed that the rules are secondary to reality and, if the rules are wrong, then they should not be obeyed.
“He did not fight by the book: that’s why he won. He was simply an innovator and a person who knew what he wanted to do. He was completely goal-driven and all he wanted to do was achieve the goal. And he did. The rules were wrong.”