By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (BosNewsLife)-- Israel was plunged into mourning Saturday, January 11, after confirmation that its former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had died at age 85.
Comatose for 8 years after a stroke, the former soldier turned statesman finally lost his last battle for life after his health had taken a downturn, his son Gilad announced.
Sharon's career stretched across most of Israel's 65-year turbulent history.
Yet, "Today his heart weakened and he peacefully departed from his family who were always at his side with love and support," said Hospital spokesman Dr. Shlomo Noy.
"The Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer announces with sorrow the death of Mr. Ariel Sharon who passed about an hour ago," on Saturday, January 11.
MOST FAMOUS SOLDIER
Media recalled him as one of Israel's most famous soldiers, known for bold tactics and an occasional refusal to obey orders.
As a politician, the beefy leader, became known as "the bulldozer". He was contemptuous of his critics while also capable of getting things done, observers said.
He led his country into a divisive war in Lebanon in 1982 when he was accused of indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps outside the capital Beirut.
The mass killings reportedly happened when his troops allowed allied Lebanese militias into the camps. Yet ultimately he transformed himself into a prime minister and respected statesman.
Israel's respected Haaretz newspaper recalled in its online edition that "A huge upheaval swept Israeli politics when Sharon established his centrist party, setting a platform for the biggest step in his life as a daring politician."
Yet he also "dramatically" changed his reputation, the paper noted.
After his ouster from office, he eventually made a comeback as Prime Minister, a career that was cut short following a massive stroke.
Sharon was born under the name Ariel Scheinerman to Shmuel and Vera in February 1928 in the village of Kfar Malal in Mandatory Palestine, Israeli media recalled.
His sister Yehudit (Dita) is two years his senior. Sharon's father was an agronomist by training and his mother was a medical student who never completed her studies.
His parents immigrated to Israel from Georgia six years before Sharon's birth and barely made a living from raising crops and farm animals, Haaretz recalled.
"Until her dying day, his mother would sleep with a rifle tucked under bed, Sharon would say, a memory from the fearful nights she spent hiding with Ariel and Dita in Kfar Malal's cowshed from roving Bedouin gangs during the 1929 Arab riots."
He carried on that fight, both as a soldier, and in politics.
(With additional reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos)
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