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Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon died on Saturday and, in an emotional ceremony Monday, the country bid farewell to a man who had been a political and military figure since the country was born. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair also spoke during the ceremony.
Biden spoke at a podium next to Sharon’s coffin, remembering Sharon as “a complex man” who “engendered strong opinions,” reports The Washington Post. He described meeting Sharon as a Delaware senator, recalling, “When the topic of Israel’s security arose, you immediately understood how he acquired the nickname ‘Bulldozer.’”
He described Sharon as “indomitable,” adding, “But like all historic leaders, all real leaders, he had a north star that guided him,” notes The Associated Press. “A north star from which he never, in my observation, never deviated. His north star was the survival of the state of Israel and the Jewish people wherever they resided.”
Biden also said that Sharon’s death felt like a “death in the family.”
Sarit Haddad, a popular artist with both Palestinians and Israelis, was on hand to sing “We Are Both From the Same Village.” Current Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres spoke, with both not mentioning the controversial 1982 Lebanon war and Sharon’s 2005 decision to pull Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza.
“As a minister and a prime minister, Sharon stood for our right to defend ourselves and live with security,” Netanyahu said. “I didn’t always agree with him...But we worked together for Israel’s security and economy.”
Blair remembered Sharon as a tough, “bold, unorthodox, unyielding” man and recalled how he “could leave considerable debris in his wake.” Blair also referred to him as “Arik,” the nickname many used for Sharon.
image: Wikimedia Commons