Caroline Glick
There was something about Yitzhak Shamir, Israel's seventh prime minister who passed away last Saturday, that made you feel shy, in awe when you stood in his presence. In his eulogy at Sunday morning's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted that Shamir "didn't radiate charisma. He simply radiated inner strength."

Shamir, the diminutive, taciturn leader, was a strong man. And Netanyahu was absolutely right, Shamir's strength owed to his commitment to his convictions. What motivated him to act were not external conditions, but an internal compass, an internal call to devote his life to the Jewish people and our freedom and safety in our land.

Netanyahu began his eulogy to Shamir on Sunday morning by placing him in the context of his generation. Netanyahu said, "Yitzhak Shamir was from the generation of giants that founded the State of Israel."

There is much truth in this statement. The generation of Jews that came of age in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s and established the State of Israel confronted challenges unmatched in human history. They survived the European Holocaust. They stood down and bested the British Empire. They withstood massive terror from the Arabs and repression and betrayal from the British. They defeated the invading armies of five Arab states with a ragtag force of Holocaust survivors and farmers, with little access to arms, and almost no money.

They carved a beautiful, modern country out of the rocks and sands of a long-desolate land.

They absorbed massive waves of aliya from all over the world. They brought together Jews with diverse customs, traditions and languages and reforged a unitary Jewish people bound to one another by our common heritage, faith, resuscitated language and land - all stronger than what divided us.

They suffered agonizing losses at every turn.

But they kept moving forward, sometimes in giant leaps, usually in tiny steps. But they kept moving forward.

So it is true that Shamir's generation of Jews had more than its normal share of great men and women. But to do Shamir's memory the justice it deserves it is important not to obscure his personal greatness by bracketing him inside his generation. This is true for two reasons.

First, it was not inevitable that Shamir became a strong, dedicated, successful leader.

Many in his generation were not.

Caroline Glick

Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.

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