JERUSALEM, Israel -- At Monday's state funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel (Arik) Sharon, who died Saturday after eight years in a coma, President Shimon Peres recounted the pivotal role his friend and colleague played in shaping the Jewish state. Below is a translation of Peres' eulogy, lightly edited for CBN News.
Arik, friend, leader, commander,
We are saying goodbye to you today, Arik; you were the shoulder on whom Israel's security rested. 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. 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.
I remember during the early 1950s, the commander of the Jerusalem Brigade asked to introduce David Ben Gurion to a young officer. He was a history student who had original ideas for dealing with the Fedayeen infiltrations into Jerusalem. The description of this young officer sounded to me more like a song than a biography. I was told he was smart and brave, unorthodox and daring -- an officer who was both a leader and a decision maker; a soldier who never retreats from the enemy and a leader who doesn't fear vision. This young officer, Arik Sharon was his name, was born for greatness.
We met with Arik and a friendship was instantly formed. I felt that before me stood an extraordinary young man with both the desire and rare quality to serve his people until the end. Ben Gurion loved him from first sight. His words conquered hearts. His soldiers followed him with total faith. If one of them was injured he wouldn't leave them until they recovered. To bereaved families he was a brother and a comforter. He knew how to tell the stories of their fallen loved ones with unforgettable emotion.
The nation loved him and he loved Israel, both its people and its land.
Arik was a man of the land. He loved the smell; he cultivated the hills, he sowed and he reaped. He defended this land like a lion and he taught its children to swing a scythe. He was a military legend in his lifetime and then turned his gaze to the day Israel would dwell in safety, when our children would return to our borders and peace would grace the Promised Land.
There were parts of his personality that were not written in his military biography: his emotional intelligence, which shone through whenever he described a flower or a tree, a butterfly or a bird -- and of course when he spoke of his friends. The greatness of Arik and Lily's love was known to everyone. His children were dear to him and he to them. Omri and Gilad stood by him day and night with a sense of mission and an unending love, until his final breath.
We are accompanying to his final resting place today a soldier, an exceptional soldier, a commander who knew how to win, a leader who breathed a dream, a man who charmed us all even during the most difficult hours.
Arik, you were unique. You turned the seemingly impossible into endless opportunity. You fought off dangers and never delayed decisions. You decided and you were victorious. May you rest in peace -- a great leader. You never rested when in service of your people, when defending your land and when 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.
In the words of the poet, "As the nation arises, torn at heart but still breathing, to receive its miracle, the only miracle." May your memory be blessed, Arik.