Sunday, January 12, 2014

Israelis Pay Tribute to Ariel Sharon

Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon places his hand on the Western Wall in 2001

Members of the Knesset guard carry the flag draped coffin of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon's coffin lay in state outside the parliament building
Workers prepare the grave of late former PM Ariel Sharon next to his wife Lili Sharon"s
Mr Sharon will be laid to rest on his ranch next to his wife Lili
Palestinians dance after hearing that Ariel Sharon, the hard-charging Israeli general and prime minister, had died.
There was celebration among the Palestinians

Thousands of Israelis filed past the body of ex-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who died on Saturday aged 85 - after eight years in a coma. Draped in a flag, his coffin lay in state outside the parliament building in Jerusalem. A state funeral will take place on Monday before a military burial ceremony at his ranch near Sderot. Israeli and world figures have paid tribute to Mr Sharon but there was little sorrow among Palestinians.

Many Israelis felt they'd said goodbye to Ariel Sharon when he slipped into a coma eight years ago after a massive stroke.  It took eight years for his body to succumb to the damage and that's a long time to get used to the idea that someone is not coming back.

But the end of that long and agonizing period for his family, when he lay suspended between life and death, has prompted an outpouring of grief and reflection. Sharon was a part of the generation that created the state of Israel and even Israelis who didn't much care for his politics recognized his stature.

Shuttle buses are taking members of the public to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, where his coffin  lies in state. One of the pick-up points will be at Latrun - an old British Army fortress on the road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv where the young Ariel Sharon fought - and was seriously injured - in the war of independence back in 1948.

Given the bitterly divided history of the modern Middle East it's inevitable perhaps that a man eulogized by Israelis would be demonized by its Arab enemies. Nothing in that would have surprised Sharon who understood the region well and saw his role as the establishment and protection of the Jewish state in which he passionately believed.

Mr Sharon's body was brought to the Knesset on Sunday morning and his coffin was then placed on a podium in the plaza outside the building, where it lay in state throughout the day. Prayers were said as flags flew at half mast. President Shimon Peres laid a wreath and stood in silence beside the coffin.

A steady stream of thousands of people filed past the podium. Many took pictures while others lit candles in memory of the former leader. The number of people grew as darkness fell, with some elderly mourners moved to tears. Ministers held a minute's silence at Sunday's cabinet meeting to remember their former leader. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his colleagues that Mr Sharon was "tied to the land and knew that it had to be defended".
A state funeral will be held at the Knesset on Monday, before Mr Sharon's body is taken to his farm, Sycamore ranch, near Sderot in southern Israel where he will be buried in a military ceremony next to his wife Lili, who died in 2000. Tens of thousands of people are expected to accompany the coffin on his final journey, Israeli army radio reports.
Dignitaries from around the world are expected to attend the Knesset memorial service, including US Vice President Joe Biden, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Middle East international envoy Tony Blair and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.  You certainly have earned your rest Mr Sharon. My partner and I send our respects.

1 comment:

Through this ever open gate
None come too early
None too late
Thanks for dropping in ... the PICs