Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Laid to Rest
The casket was then taken by motorcade to Sharon's Havat Hashikmim (Sycamore Ranch) in the Negev, where he was buried on Monday afternoon, next to his late wife, Lily.
"Arik, you were the shoulder on whom Israel's security rested," said President Shimon Peres standing in the Knesset plaza, where Sharon's flag-draped coffin stood on a black marble plinth. "The story of your life is bound to the story of this country. And your life was dedicated to the life of this country.
"Your footprints are imprinted on every hill and in every valley," Peres continued. "You cultivated the land with your scythe and defended it with your sword. Your fingerprints are on every diplomatic situation and every military outpost. You took and implemented the difficult decisions. You never rested in service of your people, when defending your land and making it flourish.
"The land from which you came will embrace you in the warm arms of the history of our nation to which you added an unforgettable chapter," he said under bright blue skies as a row of Israeli flags flapped in the background.
“This man had a commanding presence,” said Biden, the first foreign speaker at the event. “He filled the room. When the subject of Israeli security arose, which it always did, you immediately understood how he acquired the nickname 'bulldozer'. He was indomitable.
“Sharon was a complex man who engendered strong opinions freom everyone,” Biden went on. “But like all real leaders, he had a north star that guided him. His north star was the survival of the state of Israel and the Jewish people, wherever they resided.
“In the late 90's he said – 'Before and above all else, I am a Jew. I am concerned with the future of Israel in 3 years, 300 years, a thousand years'. Because he possessed such physical and political courage he never deviated from that 'preoccupation' with Israel as he called it.
“We have an expression in the states – 'never in doubt'. Arik seemed never in doubt. There were times when he acted and these actions earned him condemnations. But American presidents were never shy with him when they wanted to air their differences, nor was he with them.
“He was a complex man who also lived in complex times and in a very complex neighborhood. It's time for Israelis to look at the arc of his life, which is also the arc of Israel's history. Through it all, the US has been unflagging in its commitment to the state of Israel. We have never failed to defend Israel's legitimacy and no one has any doubt where America stands with regard to Israel's security. That will never change.”
Blair spoke next, praising Sharon for being "warm-hearted and passionate about his country of course, but also about his family and his farming."
"He took actions no one ever thought he would take," noted Blair, referencing Sharon's forming of the Kadima party in 2005 to force his "Disengagement" plan through in expelling all Jews from Gaza.
Blair argued that "the idea that (Sharon) changed from a man of war to a man of peace misses that which defined him," claiming the Sharon never changed, and his "strategic objective" to secure Israel "never wavered," whether that objective was pursued through "fighting or making peace."
Sharon, according to Blair, was a "bold, unorthodox, unyielding" model, serving as a "standard bearer" for Israelis leadership by demonstrating the "imagination to know that genuine peace, if obtainable with honor and dignity for Arabs and Israelis, is the goal."
Blair further praised Sharon for possessing something that he claims exists in all Israeli leaders he's met. "Beneath the maneuvers and machinations...something unusual is found in Israeli politics, a supreme love for the state of Israel and the land of Israel, for what it is, what it took to build it, and what it will take to sustain it."
"Israel was an idea" to Sharon, claimed Blair, an idea that after centuries of victimhood, the Jewish people "should have a state where they could be independent and free, afraid of no one, equal to everyone."
In conclusion, Blair called Sharon "wise enough to know that war alone could not support (Israel's) future."
After a few more speakers, the Knesset ceremony ended as participants rose for the singing of "Akaviya Ben Mahalalel" by IDF Chief Cantor Lt. Col. Shai Abramson.
The text of the song, taken from the sayings of the sage from the Mishnah (in Tractate Avot), read "consider three things and you will not come to sin; know from where you came, to where you are going, and before who you will give an accounting. From where you came, a putrid drop. To where you are going, a place of dust, worm and maggot. Before who you will give an accounting, before the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He."
Sharon's casket was then removed for transportation to the Negev ranch, where he was buried.