Israeli Knesset guards carry the coffin of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir as he lies-in-state in the Chagall Hall in the Knesset (Parliament) in Jerusalem, Israel, July 2, 2012. A state funeral was held at Mt. Herzl Cemetery. Photo Credit: EPA/ABIR SULTAN
As the condition of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon grows graver by the day, preparations are being made for a state funeral.
Sharon, 85, Israel's 11th prime minister, suffered a brain hemorrhage on January 4, 2006, slipping into a coma from which he has never recovered.
Dr Zeev Rotstein, director of Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv, recently told members of the Israeli press that ``Sharon's health had deteriorated during the past two days and vital organs were suffering from a critical malfunction.''
The protocol for state funerals in Israel is called Havazelet (lily, the flower). In general, this protocol, according to Maoz Azaryahu, an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Haifa, places the Ministry of Internal Security (police) in charge of public order, while the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is in charge of the ceremonial phases of the service. The general conduct of the funeral is ultimately decided by the family.
Mount Herzl ("Mount of Remembrance") has served as Israel’s national cemetery since ``The Greats of the Nations'' plot was inaugurated in 1952 (when Eliezer Kaplan was buried there) ; and it has been the burial place of four of Israel's prime ministers: Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yitzhak Shamir, as well as Israeli presidents, generals, and other leaders, according to Neil W. Netanel, Interim Director at the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA.
Burial on Mount Herzl is considered the highest symbolic honor that the nation can show its leaders, since it is the burial site of Theodore Herzl, Austrian visionary and founder of modern Zionism, including the burial site of the many soldiers cut down in battle defending the state’s existence. Mount Herzl is located on the western side of Jerusalem.
Most close observers of Mr. Sharon, however, believe the former prime minister will break with tradition and opt not be buried on Mount Herzl at the ``Plot of the Greats of the Nation’’, but rather near his home, alongside his second wife, Lily (who died in 2000) at Havat Hashikmim (Sycamore Ranch) in the Negev. It is located in the northern Negev Desert, near Sderot.
If Mr. Sharon isn’t buried at Mount Herzl, he certainly wouldn’t be the first.
On December 3, 1973, David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of the State of Israel, was buried alongside his wife Paula on the cliff overlooking Wadi Zin in the educational and research center subsequently named after him, Midreshet Ben-Gurion (hereafter theMidrasha). Moshe Sharett (Israel’s second prime minister) was buried in the Trumpeldor cemetery in Tel Aviv; Menachem Begin chose the ``Mount of Olives'' (an old Jewish cemetery) as his burial place; and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (Israel's second president) in a gesture of humility, chose a civilian cemetery in Jerusalem as his final resting place.
In Jewish tradition, funerals are held the following sunset or within 24 hours of death.
Mark Regev, spokesman for current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, was quoted in The Telegraph, saying the strict Jewish edict will probably be suspended in an effort to allow world leaders to pay their final respects to Mr. Sharon.
Specific details of the impending state funeral won’t be fully disclosed until the former prime minister dies.
According to David Tal, Yossi Harel Chair in Israel Studies in the Department of History at the University of Sussex, ``Sharon was a major General in the IDF, a member of the Knesset and a prime minister. As such he can be buried either in a military funeral, carried by six major generals, and buried in a military cemetery.’’ ``The other option’’ Tal says, `` is that he will be buried as a former prime minister, in a state funeral.’’
The decision as to what type of funeral Mr. Sharon will have (either military or state) resides with his family, namely, Sharon’s sons, Gilad and Omri, who are reportedly at their father's hospital bedside.
While specific elements of Mr. Sharon’s funeral may not have been disclosed yet, a look back at the funeral of Israel’s first prime minister, might offer a rough blue print of the main features of a state funeral in Israel.
Michael Feige and David Ohana in the ``Journal of Israel History: Politics, Society, Culture’’ [Vol. 31, No. 2, September 2012 http://is.gd/rKiJQc ], chronicle the specific details of Ben-Gurion's funeral in 1973. Among its highlights:
• In the morning after his death, the casket was removed from Tel Hashomer hospital. The chief military cantor recited the “El male rahamim” prayer and Ben-Gurion’s son Amos recited the Kaddish.
• A helicopter carried the casket to the government offices; and from there it was carried on the shoulders of the Knesset guard into the Knesset building.
• As stipulated in his will, there were no public eulogies.
• The director of Israeli Radio, Moshe Hovav, read excerpts from the Declaration of Independence.
• Eight members of the Knesset guard carried the casket with two memorial torches being lit behind it, while four Knesset guard members stood on each side.
• Two military rabbis recited psalms.
• The president, prime minister, ministers, Knesset members, and other official delegations and public figures passed before the casket amid a siren of mourning.
• At approximately 10:00 a.m, the public was allowed in to pay their final respects, which was estimated at a quarter of a million people.
• The following morning, five helicopters carried the coffin and the VIPs to the funeral ceremony in Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the Negev desert of southern Israel.
• Six soldiers from the chief military rabbinate took up position on each side of the open grave.
• The coffin arrived in the fifth helicopter that landed at the Midrasha, accompanied by six IDF lieutenant-colonels and four police chief superintendents. After them, the family members descended.
• Among the first VIPs to arrive were the president, the prime minister, and speaker of the Knesset; followed by government ministers and the other dignitaries. Only 150 people were permitted to attend the funeral.
• A military command car carrying the coffin approached along with a guard of honor of IDF major-generals and representatives of the Israeli police. Those in attendance remained silent. The national flag was removed from the coffin and a representative of the military rabbinate folded the prayer shawl that was under it, and the coffin was then lowered into the grave.
• The chief military rabbi read a chapter of psalms and Ben-Gurion’s son, Amos, recited the Kaddish.
• Directly behind the grave, black rubber bags containing desert soil were distributed by soldiers from the military rabbinate and their contents were poured into the grave until the coffin was covered.
• The cantor recited a prayer, and wreaths were laid to conclude the 45 minute ceremony.
January 9, 2014
Biographical Sketch of Ariel Sharon
February 27, 1928: Born: Ariel Scheinerman to Shmuel and Vera Scheinerman.
1942: Age 14, joined Haganah, the underground defense force in Palestine, when it was under the administrative authority of the British government.
1948: Launched his military career as member of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
1949: Commanded an intelligence unit of the Golani brigade.
1953; Headed a special anti-terror unit responsible for halting Palestinian incursions into Israeli territory.
October 14-15, 1953: In retaliation for the murder of a woman and her daughters, Sharon's unit stormed the village of Qibya, in West Jordan, where he ordered the dynamiting of forty-five houses, causing the death of sixty-nine persons. This provocative action was condemned by the UN Security Council.
1954-1955: Headed a battalion in a paratroop brigade.
1956: During the Suez-Sinai War, he ignored orders from superiors and occupied the Mitla Pass, which commanded the access to the Suez Canal. The confrontation with Egyptian troops resulted in the death of 36 men. Sharon was accused of insubordination; later tried and found responsible for the deaths of these men.
February, 1967: Promoted to general and commanded an armored division during the Six-Day War.
1969-1973: As chief of the southern command, he demolished thousands of homes in Gaza refugee camps to create roads for antiterror patrols.
1972: Unable to rise to the position of Army chief of staff, Sharon left the military to take up a career in politics, registering as a member of the Liberal Party. With Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, he participated in the creation of the right-wing parliamentary group Likud.
October, 1973: During the Yom Kippur War, he commanded an armored division on the southern front. Ignoring orders from superiors, he crossed the Suez Canal, cutting the Egyptian Third Army off from its rear, enabling the IDF to force the Egyptian army to surrender. Such heroic efforts catapulted Sharon, in the eyes of Israeli soldiers, to"Arik, King of Israel."
1973: Elected a Likud representative.
1975: Became security adviser for the Labor Party Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin.
1977: In disputes with party leaders, he formed his own party, Shlomzion, which won two seats in the Knesset in the May elections. Soon after, he joined Likud and was appointed minister of agriculture in the government of Menachem Begin.
June, 1981: Became Defense Minister.
1982: Became the principal architect of the invasion of Lebanon (Operation "Peace in Galilee"), during which several hundred Palestinians were murdered by the Lebanese Christian militia at the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, while the IDF observed without raising any objections.
February 11, 1983, Sharon was judged responsible by a commission of inquiry headed by Israeli Supreme Court chief justice Yitzhak Kahan for not preventing the slaughter; a decision which forced him to resign as defense minister, but remaining minister without portfolio.
1996: Appointed national infrastructure minister by Benjamin Netanyahu.
1998: Became foreign minister.
May, 1999: Succeeds Netanyahu as Likud leader after Labor's Ehud Barak became prime minister.
September, 2000: Visits Temple Mount in Jerusalem, setting off Muslim riots and an eruption of anger from Palestinians, sparking a revival of the Intifada known as al-Aqsa Intifada.
February 6, 2001: Sharon was elected prime minister, with 62.5 percent of the votes.
March, 2002: Following a suicide bombing at a Netanya resort hotel, Sharon ordered the invasion and reoccupation of West Bank cities under Operation "Defensive Shield." Israeli forces destroyed buildings while capturing hundreds of Palestinians.
May, 2003: Under heavy pressure from the United States, Sharon's cabinet voted to approve the internationally backed "Road Map" for peace.
2004: Presented a plan to disengage from settlements in Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
October, 2004: The Knesset voted to back Sharon's plan in October 2004.
August, 2005: Sharon completes the withdrawal from Gaza of all Israeli settlers and the destruction of all Israeli settlements and completes the withdrawal of the Israeli military on September 11, 2005.
November 21, 2005: Resigned his Likud position, dissolved parliament; then forms a new center-right party known as Kadima (Forward), with new elections scheduled for March 2006.
December 18, 2005: Sharon was hospitalized for stroke like symptoms, later released after scheduling surgery to repair a newly discovered hole in the atrial septum of his heart.
January 4, 2006: Suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage at his Negev ranch (Havat Hashikmim).
April 11, 2006: The Israeli cabinet declared Sharon incapacitated and ended his prime ministership three days later, naming Ehud Olmert as interim prime minister.
January 9, 2014
Source: Dictionary of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Vol. 2. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA; Edwards, Richard. "Sharon, Ariel." The Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Political, Social, and Military History. Ed. Spencer C. Tucker and Priscilla Roberts. Vol. 3. Santa Barbara, CA: