MY SAY: MY MORNING WITH THE LATE YITZHAK SHAMIR
Many, too many, years ago when Shamir was Prime Minister and he was visiting New York, my phone rang at five o’clock in the morning. It was my friend and one of my all time favorite Israelis, Yossi Ben-Aharon who was then the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff. At the suggestion of the late pianist/journalist David Bar-Illan, he asked if I could go to the Hotel Regency right away to help craft a speech for a women’s group for the Prime Minister. My husband was a tad shocked that I was running off to a hotel in the wee hours, but, as always, he understood and blessed anything for the cause of Israel.
When I arrived at the suite, the Prime Minister, surrounded by guards greeted me tersely and told me to get to work…the speech had to be delivered by lunchtime. With Yossi seated nearby to translate to Hebrew, I wrote the usual “light unto nations” spiel scattered with history, legacy, religious and legal rights to all of the land of Israel to please that particular group of women who were religious Zionists. Getting a little wind in my sails, I got slightly pompous and ended with the invocation that Israel and the Arabs “plead the second commandment…..Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.”
When the Prime Minister read it with Yossi’s translation, he nodded several times as he read. However, when he reached the last line, he slapped the paper and stated gruffly (as translated by Yossi Ben Aharon) “….Love? What love? I don’t want love. I want Israel to be feared and respected.” He struck that passage out and thanked me curtly and stomped out of the room. Yossi Ben Aharon later told me that he read the speech without the last sentence.
That’s what I loved about the man.
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