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Israelis You Should Know: Ariel Sharon

Rabbi Eckstein and Ariel Sharon (Photo: IFCJ)

Lived: February 26, 1928 - January 11, 2014

Known for: Israeli statesman and IDF General

Years with the IDF: Sharon spent more than 25 years in the Israel Defense Forces - including service during the 1948 War of Independence, the 1967 Six-Day War, and the Yom Kippur War of 1973 - retiring with the rank of Major-General

Political offices held: Minister of Agriculture, Defense Minister, Minister of Industry and Trade, Minister of Construction and Housing, Chariman of the Ministerial Committee on Immigration and Absorption, Foreign Minister, and Prime Minister

Why you should know him: The son of Russian immigrants, Sharon joined the Zionist youth movement when he was 10 and entered military service at age 14. He spent many years in the IDF, most in positions of leadership during the volatile years following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Sharon was elected to the Knesset (Israel's parliament) in 1973, and went on to serve in a variety of positions, most involving international relations. In the early 1980s, Sharon secured some of the first strategic agreements between Israel and the U.S. and facilitated stronger defense ties with many other nations. Sharon also helped bring thousands of Jews from Ethiopia to Israel and created programs and housing to absorb the large influx of Russian immigrants to Israel following the fall of the Soviet Union.

Some of Sharon's bold actions to secure peace for Israel were considered controversial, such as the disengagement plan that called for the complete withdrawal of Israelis from the Gaza Strip in 2005, ending Israel's 38-year-presence in the area. Regardless of how people view his policies and politics, it is impossible to discount his vital role in the establishment of the Jewish state.

In his own words: "If we [are to] reach a situation of true peace, real peace, peace for generations, we will have to make painful concessions. Not in exchange for promises, but rather in exchange for peace."

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