September 16, 2010
Hunting for Ariel Sharon
From the desert ranches of southern Israel to the hospitals of Tel Aviv, it took being ignored, dismissed and eventually detained by Israeli intelligence to catch a glimpse of Israel’s former leader.
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She directs me to Dr. Wolner’s office and past a third Shin Bet agent who, not paying any attention to my conversation with Marina, allows me through thinking I have arrived for a consultation with the doctor.
A bearded, middle-aged man with glasses, Dr. Wolner’s office is in a back cove of the respiratory ward right next to Sharon’s room. Realizing this, it occurs to me that I have now made it past three armed guards and could simply walk into Sharon’s room and speak to him, photograph him or, if I were an assassin, kill him.
The door to Sharon’s room is simply open and for a former prime minister, he is surprisingly unprotected.
Perhaps out of fear of being shot, perhaps out of respect for the Sharon family, I decline the temptation and approach Dr. Wolner.
“The family’s explicit request is not to give out any information about Mr. Sharon’s condition,” the doctor says, adding that Sharon’s sons visit regularly. “I’m forbidden to speak to you about this.”
“A”, a 26-year-old Shin Bet guard from the Israeli city of Ramat Gan who let me past, realizes I’m a journalist and takes me back to the lobby, where I am detained for an hour by his superior “U”, a former paratrooper and a paramilitary policeman.
The intelligence agents are less interested in my journalistic intentions than in how I managed to get past all three guards without being questioned.
They politely ask me a number of routine questions, search all my belongings, and bicker with one another over whose job it was to stop me.
After an hour or so I am escorted out of the complex by a hospital security guard, and both Shin Bet guards have since ignored my olive branch request to be friends on Facebook.
I never did get to see Sharon.
Once a military and political legend, who founded the Israeli special forces, took the Suez Canal and forced his country out of the Gaza Strip, today arguably the most influential provocateur in Israeli history is said to lie motionless, weighing less than half what he once did, his only sign of life the occasional blink of an eye.