Like many Israeli’s (and people from neighbouring countries) I, too, have a personal story about Ariel (Arik) Sharon.
First time I’ve met Arik was back in 1992, shortly after we’ve moved to Israel from what was then still the USSR. As many of our fellow repatriants, we lived in a caravan on a barren hill above the city of Ariel, in Samaria. Arik, who was then Minister of Construction, came to our shanty town on Tu Bi Shvat to plant a tree according to the Jewish tradition. With him came Moshe (Misha) Arens, the Minister of Defence and Rehavam (Gandhi) Zeevi, who was Minister of Nothing, and who resigned from doing even that just a few days beforehand. My dad took a picture of me and my brother with Arik, Misha and Ganhdi (all politicians in Israel have nicknames), a picture that I have lost since.
The next time, I’ve met Ariel Sharon in proxy. We were still living in the caravan, and Arik came around again, this time to lay a corner stone for the new student dorms (which took about a decade or two to build). We didn’t get to meet in person, but I saw his picture in the paper afterwards, with in the background a childish, offensive, totally unrelated graffiti I sprayed on a concrete block a few days earlier. I kept this paper, but have lost it since.
A few years later I’ve met Arik again, and again, it was only in proxy. It was in 2001, when I was working at Dr. Saadya, the best falafel place in Tel Aviv. Arik was Prime Minister by then, and every other Thursday he’d meet the Likud Ministers in Metzudat Zeev, the ugly concrete Likud headquarters just across King George street from Dr. Saadya. It was 2001, I remind you, the height of the terror threat, including 9/11, so every other Thursday morning, the street would be filled with guys with earphones and micro-Uzi’s. They’d check the parked cars and the Doctor’s scooter, grab a falafel for themselves and take a portion upstairs. They couldn’t say explicitly who it was for, but hey – it’s Israel, so everyone knew who was going to eat that. The ministers came to get their falafel themselves (I particularly remember the jokes of Rubi Rivlin, who just might be the next president), so I know for sure that if security would be a bit less tight, the big man would have come by himself, but alas. This time, I didn’t get a picture, the micro-Uzi’s tend to put you off picture-taking. The falafel place is still there and I drop by, every time I’m around.
So that’s my story about how I used to cook falafels for Arik Sharon. Perhaps not the most dramatic one, but a very Israeli story, I believe.
P. S. Even thought all politicians, generals, etc. in Israel have nicknames, using them is sort of an Israeli thing. I mean – I planted trees with Ariel Sharon, cooked his meals and served in the same army as he did. I was neighbours with Benjamin Netanyahu. Its OK for me to call them Arik and Bibi. Unless you’ve got the creds, do use their full names, will you?