click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Yitzhak Shamir, of Blessed Memory

Jul 2, 2012 at 06:40:00 AM

Back what seems like a lifetime ago, I was making the transition from working in the field of entertainment to working for Jewish causes. The first job I got was as an American liaison for Yitzhak Shamir during his tenure as Israeli Prime Minister (the two of us, pictured here).

Shamir had moved to Israel in 1935, leaving behind his family who were all murdered in the Holocaust. His father had succeeded in escaping from a German death train, only to return to his Polish village where he was promptly beaten to death by childhood friends.

These events greatly informed Shamir's political views, and in the 1940s he became a leader of the Stern Gang whose goal was to drive the British colonialists out of Israel, thus paving the way for Jewish independence.

Yet while Shamir was a firm ideologue, his greatness lay in his ability to be a pragmatist at the same time. Though he was committed to Jewish settlement throughout the Land of Israel, he attended the 1991 Madrid Conference becoming the first Israeli Prime Minister to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians.

On one hand, Shamir was very forthright in Israel's right to defend itself, while on the other hand during the 1991 Gulf War he took the difficult strategic measure of not striking back when Saddam Hussein was hurling scud missiles onto Tel Aviv.

It is these two sides – tough yet compromising – that enabled him to serve so ably.

When he first came to Israel, he changed his family name to Shamir, which is, according to Talmudic lore (Gittin 68b), the name of a worm which can cut through stone. It was used to produce the blocks of the Holy Temple, since metal cutting implements were not appropriate in a place devoted to peace.

To me this sums up Yitzhak Shamir: Firmly devoted to peace, yet stronger than iron and not afraid to use it when necessary.

Yitzhak Shamir has died at age 96, and is being buried today in Jerusalem. He was not a politician who sought glory, fame or riches; he served with modesty and unswerving devotion. May his memory be for a blessing.

July 2, 2012

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 8

(7) Anonymous, July 4, 2012 7:17 AM

In memory .....

Israel was indeed fortunate to have had a leader of his wisdom and character, displaying the right qualities at the right times. May his memory continue to be an inspiration to all those who follow in positions of influence in our beloved land.

(6) matania ginosar, July 4, 2012 6:36 AM

Please read my own brief memories of my Lechi-Stern Gang- leader Itzhak Shamir at:

(5) theresa, July 4, 2012 4:11 AM

G-d bless you, R Shraga

yes, a beautiful eulogy. while a couple of jewish bloggers have been criticising him, its very heartwarming to read this. what Hashem expects of every jew, loving one another. some jews fought physical wars, some jews fought spiritual wars, while other jews studied torah and prayed for israel. each is equally important in its own way. thank you rabbi shraga. may many read this article and give due respect to the dead.

(4) p.herring, July 3, 2012 11:49 PM

Farewell Yitzak Shamir

The founding fathers move on - none greater than Yitzak Shamir. The courageous efforts of Lehi and Irgun against the British, hampered and even betrayed at times by socialist elements from within the Jewish agency,were a driving force in hastening the departure of the colonial occupier from Palestine. Militarily Britain could not be beaten. However politically, the economic cost of maintaining a large garrison to combat the Freedom Fighters, could not be justified at a time when Britain was undergoing hardship recovering from WW2. With the British gone the State of Israel came into being. Since 1948 the nationalist parties in Israel have done all possible to ensure the survival of a country surrounded by implaccable enemies - Mr Shamir with his role in Govt. and as PM was a leading figure in this never ending battle. It is only to be hoped that the present and future generation of Israelis will heed his advice - aquired during a lifetime of dealing with the problems faced by the State. - NO land is to be returned to the so called Palestinians - The Judea/Samaria settlements must stay and dramatically expand - The Arab nations can never be trusted - they will never relax their dream that the Jewish State must be destroyed, along with all Israeli Jewish subjects Yes - Mr Shamir has passed into history after contributing so much for Israel May his name be eternally blessed

(3) Haim, July 3, 2012 9:35 PM

Shamir started as a Terroroist

Yitzhak Shamir was a member of the Irgun Zvi Luimi, the terrorist organization that came out of the Revisionist movement. Itzak Stern led a split when the Irgun declared a truce with the British in World war II. Stern started Lehi, "Fishters for the kingdom of Israel." They wanted to fight the British and the Arabs during the war. They even attempted to make an alliance with Germany. Later after Stern was killed by the Birtish, Shamir took over Lehi. He ordered the assination of Lord Moyne, the British Minister Resident in Ciaro. He wanted to assisnate Lord Cunningham, the British High Commisioner of Palestine, but the security was too tight, so they choose Lord Moyne. Later in 1948 Shamir ordered the successful assination Count Folke Bernadotte, the first UN mediator. Bernadotte had dsitinguished himself during the war by saving thousands of Jews from German concentration camps. They were evacuated to Sweden. This goes to show yesterday's terrorist is today's statestman.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment