World leaders praise Sharon at funeral attended by 1,000

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at his public funeral was remembered as a man of courage and strength on the battlefield and in the political arena.

Israeli President Shimon Peres speaks at a state memorial service for Sharon. photo/lior mizrhi-getty images

“Sharon was a complex man who lived in complex times in a complex neighborhood,” Vice President Joe Biden said during the memorial ceremony Jan. 13 at the Knesset plaza in Jerusalem.

Sharon “engendered strong opinions,” said Biden. “But like all historic leaders, he had a North Star that guided him. His North Star was the survival of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. ”

Biden was among some 1,000 guests who attended the funeral, including Knesset members, Cabinet ministers, military leaders and 21 delegations from other countries.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair recalled that Sharon was not comfortable in formal meetings, tending to repeat himself or read from prepared texts. When Sharon accepted an invitation to his home for dinner, Blair said, he saw “a different Arik — warmhearted, humorous and charming, and passionate.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres called Sharon “a friend, a leader, a military chief.”

He added, “Arik, you were a rare man. You turned the impossible into great opportunities. Rest in peace, great leader.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged in his eulogy that he and Sharon did not always agree with each other, but said they served in each other’s governments and supported each other “for Israel’s sake.”

Netanyahu called Sharon “one of the greatest generals that the Jewish people and the Israel Defense Forces had ever known.”

Sharon’s casket was taken to the Latrun Armored Corps Museum and Memorial, where 15 Israeli major generals saluted the late military and political leader. Some drivers  got out of their cars to salute the vehicle as it drove by.

The convoy then continued to Sharon’s Sycamore Ranch in the Negev for a private funeral attended by family and close friends, after which Sharon was buried next to his second wife, Lily. — jta