Global Politics

Where were all the mourners this weekend, as Ariel Sharon lay in state?

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Credit: Daniel Estrin
A soldier recites psalms next to Ariel Sharon's coffin in front of Israel's parliament.

There weren't many people who came to pay their last respects to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem over the weekend.

Sharon, the controversial and polarizing warrior-turned-politician, fought in Israel’s independence war and nearly every other battle in the country’s history. He was among the last founders of the Jewish state still alive.

Yet, as he lay in state in the outside plaza of Israel's parliament building on Sunday, there was just a small trickle of visitors lined up to view his closed coffin.

An hour before his coffin was placed back inside the parliament building, visitors had left fewer than a dozen flower bouquets on the grass. Some who had come were taking somber selfies with their smartphones.

Where was everyone?

Maybe it was the blustery chill and grey skies. Maybe everyone was at work on Sunday — a work day in Israel.

Maybe Israelis felt torn about Sharon’s complex legacy. Some call him a war hero, others, a war criminal.

For years, he championed Jewish settlements in war-won territories, but then stunningly changed course and pulled Israeli settlers and soldiers out of the Gaza Strip and uprooted a few small West Bank settlements. He abandoned his hawkish Likud party to start a centrist party, which supported a Palestinian state in the same lands he had worked so hard to help settle for Israel.

Maybe it was simply because Ariel Sharon’s death had been a long time coming. His sudden stroke in 2006 left him in a coma for eight years.

I asked one Israeli woman, who came with her grandson to say goodbye to Ariel Sharon, why she thought there were so few people there to pay their last respects.

For Israel, Ariel Sharon already died eight years ago, she said.

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    Credit: Daniel Estrin
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    Credit: Daniel Estrin
    A media crew at the parliament reporting on Israelis visiting Sharon's coffin as it lay in state.
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    Credit: Daniel Estrin

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