Yitzhak Shamir Celebrated His 85th Birthday
by Gad Nahshon
It was the party of the year 2000! 400 selected distinguished guests came to celebrate with Yitzhak Shamir, Israel's founding father, a senior leader, a man with a legacy and the last great follower of Zeev Jabotinsky's heritage and Menachem Begin's political will. This national party of Israel's ex-Prime Minister took place at Givataim Theater, near Tel Aviv. The guests came to express their admiration to the man who has contributed so much to the well being of Israel.
Many are not with us any more. They were his friends from the underground, from the Freedom Fighters of Israel (Lehi). They were the fighters who legendary commander was Abraham Stern or 'Yair.'
The party was a unique one. You felt a sense of honor and beauty or in Hebrew 'Hadar.' But at the same time you felt a sense of honesty. We must praise Shamir's contributions to Israel but we must stress his great modesty. In principle, Shamir refused to let the media inside this party. We, the guests, turned out to be just members of an extended family. Shamir himself expressed his love for his own family: son Yair Shamir, daughter Gilada Diament, and their children, his grandchildren. And, of course, his love of his great devoted wife, Shulamit Shamir, who was a member of the Lehi.
Inside this party you felt like a member of an extended family. There was a nice elegant ceremony. Many speakers praised Shamir's public record and unique contribution to Israel's survival. Israel's President, Moshe Katsav, said that Shamir was a great model for many people and shaped the life of a generation: "You were a great example to all of us," remarked Katzav, whose political career as a young man in the Likud party was shaped by Shamir, the ex-Prime Minister and a politician with a rare sense of personal integrity.
Another speaker, David Stern, 'Yair' (Abraham Stern - the Lehi founder's) brother, spoke about the Lehi's legacy. Ehud Olmert, the mayor of Jerusalem, a keynote speaker, described the long saga of Shamir's political life since he joined the Irgun and later the Lehi. Olmert described Shamir's personality: honesty, integrity, dedication to the revisionist heritage and to his principles. Shamir hates hypocrisy. He will stand even alone for his principles and belief, steady like a rock. Olmert stressed Shamir's belief in aliyah: we need 10 million Jews in Israel! And, of course, his belief in greater Eretz-Israel. Shamir had a special role in the aliyah from Russia and Ethiopia and today is looking for aliyah from the U.S.
Shamir's grandchildren also spoke in the party. They told the guests that Shamir is a great 'grandpa' who has been an integral part of their life.
Shamir thanked the guests with touching words. He told them about his life and dreams. He came to Palestine as a single person. He told them that his father influenced him but never forced him: "I believe that I gave my children the same freedom for free thinking," said Shamir. He pointed out that his dream to establish a free and proud nation and state has been fulfilled. He also mentioned those heroes who fought together with him: "I feel now that they are here together with me. Thanks to their heroism in the underground we have a state today," said Shamir who pointed to the challenges of today: aliyah and especially from the U.S.
Shamir ended his remarks by saying: "I would like to be remembered as a person who loved Eretz Israel and never ever gave up an inch."
Among the many distinguished guests who celebrated Shamir's party were: Roni Stern, Yair's widow, Yair Stern, his son, Benjamin Gafner (Lehi), Arik Sharon, Israel's Chief Rabbi Israel Law, Dr. Uzi Landau, Limor Livnat, Moshe Arnes, Roni Milo, Dan Meridor, Zalman Shuval, Avigdor Lieberman, Dov Shilansky, Ora Namir (Israel's ex-Ambassador to China), Issar Harel (Mossad) and many others.
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