Suzanne Fields

When Ariel Sharon died on Saturday, the obituaries emphasized his strength as a military commander and political leader, recalling his brilliant counterattack across Suez to surround the Egyptian armies when Israel's very existence hung in the balance in the Yom Kippur War the Arabs almost won.

He was the "new Jew" after the Holocaust, a strong man who stood up to those who wanted to destroy the likes of him and his country. He knew the first war the Israelis lost would be Israel's last. He had his faults, but weakness wasn't one of them.

His story was that of his country, of perseverance and intrepidity in the face of his enemy. When he surprised the world in 2005 by withdrawing settlers and troops in Gaza, he was compared to Nixon going to China. He had a plan to create a strong state that would survive by compromising with Israel's enemy, removing settlers who had been his most loyal followers. He completed a long and crucial part of the 450-mile barrier that ran along and through the West Bank, dramatically reducing terrorist crossings. The wall also suggested a border for a Palestinian state.

Ariel had great hopes for a lasting peace with defensible borders, a way for the Jews to flourish in their historic homeland. He saw himself as an architect who would fulfill the dream of the Jews.

In the eight years since he lapsed into a coma, the world has become a more dangerous place for Israel. A militant Hamas has strengthened Palestinian power, Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon has grown more dangerous, Iran moves closer to building a nuclear bomb. An American president has not warmed to Israel, as a succession of his predecessors did.

Mr. Sharon's approach to peace required respect and forging relationships with peoples who do not want Israel to exist at all. He died before he could retrieve the dream.

Jews in the Diaspora, with different problems, lost a different kind of star last week. Judy Protas, born in Brooklyn, who died at the age of 91, was an American Jew who wanted to see Jews prosper in America and overcome a persistent low-grade anti-Semitism.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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