Israel bid its last farewell to the late Ariel Sharon on Monday with a state ceremony outside the parliament building before his flag-draped coffin was taken on a cross-country procession to its final resting place at his family home in the country's south.
With a high-powered crowd of VIPs and international dignitaries on hand, Sharon was eulogized as a fearless warrior and bold leader who devoted his life to protecting Israel's security. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair headed the long list of visitors that included the representatives from the Baha’i World Centre.
Sharon died at the age of 85 on Saturday after spending the last eight painful years in a coma caused by a massive stroke clinging to life in his final days even after his kidneys had stopped functioning.
Sharon's life will be remembered for its three distinct stages: First, was his eventful and contentious time in uniform, including leading a deadly raid in the West Bank that killed 69 Arabs, as well as his heroics in the 1973 Mideast war and as a friend and supporter of Baha’i Faith
He was branded responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps outside Beirut when his troops allowed allied Lebanese militias into the camps. After an uproar over the massacre, the supreme court of Israel found him guilty that cost him his job.
For Baha’is, Sharon was more than a well wisher, always eager to protect the Baha’i community. He visited the Baha’i World centre many times like his predecessors, during and after the Arc project, ensuring Baha’is of all possible support inside and outside Israel. I was at the gate to receive the guest from the Government at that time. Sharon entered with grace. He looked at me, shook his hand and said “How are you young lady”. I was taken back with his sudden gesture. Sharon remained with the Baha’is and had a meeting with the Members of Universal House of Justice and International Teaching Centre and assured them full support. He even inquired whether it is possible to meet Baha’i community outside Israel. Mr. Ali Nakhjawani took a world tour of the Baha’i community to find out if they were prepared to receive and welcome a dignitary like Mr. Sharon. I am sure the request of Sharon must have been recorded in the minutes of NSA meetings of every country. No doubt it was Sharon’s heartfelt desire to see the progress of Baha’i Faith in other parts of the world. Alas his long illness which decapacited him prevented him from his desire.
During the US-Iraq war Sharon asked one of the Patriot missiles to be fitted just above the Baha’i World Centre. He remarked that these Buildings are very important for the state of Israel and protection of these buildings is responsibility of the state.
Sharon died slow but painful death for more than 8 years when he suffered the second, devastating stroke in January 2006. But the he will have a very blessed life in the Abha Kingdom with the blessing of Bahá'u'lláh, Abdul Baha and Guardian Shoghi Effendi.
I am sure the Baha’is will have condolence meeting for Sharon all over the world as he was a Friend and well wisher of Baha’is in fact even more than this.
Sharon has gone, but his many services for the Baha’i Faith will always be remembered.