Quiet Turnout for Ariel Sharon’s Lying in State

The former Prime Minister's eight-year-long coma has given Israel time to come to terms with his absence and legacy

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Oded Balilty / AP

Israelis look at the coffin of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Knesset plaza, in Jerusalem, on Jan. 12, 2014

Correction appended: Jan. 12, 2014, 11:12 p.m. E.T.

Under a low, slate overcast, the coffin containing the body of Ariel Sharon lay in state on Sunday on the grounds of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. All day, ordinary Israelis gathered to pay their respects, remark on the extraordinary role the man played in the history of the state, and exchange thoughts on why more people did not turn out.

“I was surprised,” says Rina Cohen, who arrived from Miami for a wedding and ended up at the prelude to a state funeral, set for Monday. “I expected more.”

“You know what?” says Yehuda Haviv, who came with her. “The reason is eight years.” That’s the duration between the January day in 2006, when Sharon suffered a massive stroke, and the January day in 2014, when his body finally succumbed to the damage. Eight years is a long time to get used to the idea that someone is not coming back.

(MORE: Ariel Sharon: Israel’s Soldier and Strongman, 1928–2014)

Sharon’s death on Saturday dominated Israel’s daily papers and broadcast and digital media. Tributes flowed from every quarter of Jewish Israeli society. But at midday in Jerusalem, the number of photographers and reporters outside the Knesset frequently exceeded the number of mourners. Judging by the number of police on hand and attendants standing by with water coolers stationed every few meters, preparations had been made for many more.

“He was the type of leader I think we won’t have more of,” says Liran Tamari, 20. “He was very determined, and when he wanted to do something, he did it. And today, you see our Prime Minister and other leaders, they make a decision and then they retract it.”

Tamari, who is doing his military service, recalls where he was the day Sharon collapsed. He was 12 years old at the time and Sharon 77. “It was a Friday,” Tamari says. “I went with my mother shopping. I remember seeing the broadcast on the phone. I was hoping he would get over it.” He pauses, looks around and says to his companion, “Not many people.”

(MORE: After Sharon’s Quiet Death, a Thunderclap of Reactions)

Most of those who did show up are closer in age to Sharon than to Tamari. “He’s from my generation,” says Itzik Dogo, 75, who, like several others on hand, turns out to have served under Sharon. “I took part in the military-retaliation operations in 1955,” Dogo says. As a major, Sharon headed Unit 101, specifically created to strike as hard on Arab targets as the irregulars known as fedayeen had hit Jews. Dogo was under Sharon’s command in a surprise attack on Husan, a village near Bethlehem from which militants had repeatedly killed Jews in South Jerusalem. “In that same operation, I was wounded. But it was all for the state, for the defense of the state.”

That theme was heard most often in the stream of appreciations that flowed inside Israel: gratitude for a warrior — the one-word title of Sharon’s 2001 autobiography — who made Jewish Israelis feel safe, at a time when the feeling was not a common one. In the early 1950s, Israel did not yet have the atomic bomb, an American promise that its military would always have a “qualitative military edge,” nor peace treaties with any of its neighbors. From the Palestinian perspective, the reprisal strikes carried out by Unit 101 would become the first entry on a list of “atrocities” published as his legacy. But on the walkway beside Sharon’s coffin, draped in the blue and white flag of Israel, it was regarded as important work.

“I don’t think it was cruelty per se,” says Yona Amitai, a professor of management at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan who served under Sharon. “It was a feeling that this type of action was needed.” Sharon’s unit demonstrated to both Arabs and to Israelis that the Jews could hit as well as be hit, a critical lesson for the young nation, Amitai says. “It’s not only the physical things you do, but what the enemy thinks of you,” he adds. “Deterrence was built in these actions, and absorbed by the next generation of Israel’s military.”

(MORE: The Gamble of a Lifetime)

Amitai was with Sharon as a physician on the west bank of the Suez Canal, which Sharon famously took back from Egyptian forces in a daring and pivotal battle of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. “I am here to respect his memory,” Amitai explains and looks around. The sparse turnout, he says, stands in contrast to the cathartic public outpouring for Yitzhak Rabin, another general turned Prime Minister, whose 1995 assassination at a rally for peace was as dramatic as Sharon’s death was peaceful and expected.

“By contrast with Rabin, whose murder was in real time in front of tens of thousands and the media, in this case there was eight years,” the professor says. “Things faded. People had time to separate. Or forget. Whatever. He deserves much more than that.”

An earlier version of this article misstated the year when Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke. It was 2006, not 2005.


George Washington ( in Maxims of George Washington by A. A. Appleton & Co.):

"They (the Jews) work more effectively against us, than the enemy's armies. They are a hundred times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in... It is much to be lamented that each state, long ago, has not hunted them down as pest to society and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America." George Washington




He is a war criminal and an evil man


Come you masters of war

You that build all the guns

You that build the death planes

You that build all the bombs

You that hide behind walls

You that hide behind desks

I just want you to know

I can see through your masks.

You that never done nothin'

But build to destroy

You play with my world

Like it's your little toy

You put a gun in my hand

And you hide from my eyes

And you turn and run farther

When the fast bullets fly.

Like Judas of old

You lie and deceive

A world war can be won

You want me to believe

But I see through your eyes

And I see through your brain

Like I see through the water

That runs down my drain.

You fasten all the triggers

For the others to fire

Then you set back and watch

When the death count gets higher

You hide in your mansion'

As young people's blood

Flows out of their bodies

And is buried in the mud.

You've thrown the worst fear

That can ever be hurled

Fear to bring children

Into the world

For threatening my baby

Unborn and unnamed

You ain't worth the blood

That runs in your veins.

How much do I know

To talk out of turn

You might say that I'm young

You might say I'm unlearned

But there's one thing I know

Though I'm younger than you

That even Jesus would never

Forgive what you do.

Let me ask you one question

Is your money that good

Will it buy you forgiveness

Do you think that it could

I think you will find

When your death takes its toll

All the money you made

Will never buy back your soul.

And I hope that you die

And your death'll come soon

I will follow your casket

In the pale afternoon

And I'll watch while you're lowered

Down to your deathbed

And I'll stand over your grave

'Til I'm sure that you're dead.

-bob dylan


Ariel Sharon's Israel was an Israel where all of its neighbors, on a daily basis, threatened to annihilate the State and drive all the Jews into the sea. It was and is an Israel where the Palestinians name their streets in honor of terrorists who have slaughtered innocent men, women, and children on busses, in restaurants, schools, shopping malls, and supermarkets. It was and is an Israel that witnessed Arab terrorists targeting little children and being lauded in Arab cities for murdering Jewish children.

In 1979 Palestinian Sami Kuntar and his group of terrorists broke into an apartment building in Israel and kidnapped a young father, 31-year-old Danny Haran, and his 4-year-old daughter, Einat, taking them to a nearby beach. Kuntar was found guilty of murdering Haran in front of Einat, then turning to the child and crushing her skull against a rock with the butt of his rifle. When he was released from jail many years later in a swap with Hezbollah for two Israeli soldiers who had been captured he received a heroes welcome with people dancing in the street upon his return. It is easy for the Diaspora, living in the comfort of their homes in America, to criticize Sharon's strong arm tactics but he did what had to do for his people.

The Left will never understand a man like Sharon. They don't have to worry about the safety of their children going to a nightclub, to school, getting on a bus, going out for lunch to a restaurant, or going to a shopping mall to meet their friends. Israeli's have endured dozens and dozens of terrorist attacks. What happened in Boston a year ago at the Marathon has been duplicated a hundred times all across Israel with terrorist attacks against innocent men, women, and children. What the Left will never understand is that you cannot negotiate with people who want your annihilation. There is nothing you can ever offer them that will placate them except your death and destruction. Sharon understood that, and yes, his tactics were brutal at times, but they were effective.

Unless you have family living in bomb shelters as many families in the North of Israel have during Hezbollah missile attacks, and unless you have received that horrible call about a loved one who was blown to pieces while on a bus, a restaurant, a school, or a shopping mall then you cannot and never will understand what the average Israeli had to deal with on a daily basis. Sharon responded in the only language those sending out terrorists to slaughter Jews understood. Should he be lauded? No. Understood? Most definitely yes.



He was a great man.


His body belongs to a septic tank! He was a murderer, a baby killer!


Greatness is measured in deed,Arik Sharon was such a person,he achieved security for the Jewish State Israel from the time of independence until his last battle.He met force with force,his only misguidance was with Gush Katif and we learned from that mistake.


@poiyuye   Defending the people from Muslim Arab bloody dictators, autocratic kings and jihadists is no war crime.


@jskunkcabbage Nice poetry, written by a Jew, mentioning Jewish Jesus and Judas, but what has it got to do with Ariel Sharon?  `Masters of war`:  Those Muslim Arab bloody dictators, autocratic kings and jihadis.


The Palestinians will not be taking their genocide lightly. Are you embarassed that the Palestinians are united in their resistance to Israel, as Jews were unable or unwilling to be against Nazi Germany? In failure, you have become what you most hate. Israel's success is a fragile illusion.


@deksoftwareint You can use all the words of the vocabulary of men, you can fill the air with the incense of your ideas to exalt this murderer, but no matter what you use to try to elevate this butcher to the altar of your unreal little world, the truth is that many Palestinian lie, maybe forgotten by the history of your country and the zionists's, massacred in the land of their ancestors robbed and humiliated of their history and their possessions by this war criminal and his supporters in the land of FREEDOM.


@scurie1980 How was he a baby killer?  Elaborate, please.  He killed soldiers from Muslim Arab bloody dictatorships, autocratic kingdoms and jihadists that attacked the only Jewish (the religion of Jesus), democratic and civilized (no civil war, hanging of gays, women stoning, "honour" killing of girls, cannibalism, as seen recently in Syria, etc.) country in the region (0,00000000000000...1% of the ME, 20% of Palestine, a million times smaller than the 22 Arab countries).


@jskunkcabbage   Genocide of Arabs:  By other Arabs, killed in their endless civil wars or by their brutal dictators.  Israel, 0,0000000000000000...1% of the ME, 20% of Palestine, a million times smaller than those judenrein (from where all Jews were kicked out, but are not living in refugee camps or blowing themselves up, of course) 22 Arab countries (one in Palestine, Jordan) is the Jewish (the religion of Jesus), democratic and civilized (no civil war, hanging of gays, women stoning, "honour" killing of girls, cannibalism as seen recently in Syria, etc.).  Another genocide:  300,000 black Christians killed by Muslim Arabs in Darfur, Sudan.


@ricardo_lion @scurie1980 If you educate yourself you will learn the answer! He was an immoral baby killer, a war criminal and he is finally in Hell where he belongs!