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Maryland political, Jewish leaders reflect on Ariel Sharon

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Maryland political and Jewish leaders reflected Saturday on the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and said they found hope in the vision for peace in the Middle East that he outlined shortly before suffering a stroke in 2006.

Sen. Ben Cardin extended his sympathies to Sharon's relatives, who have cared for the leader since he was incapacitated by a stroke.

"For eight years, they have stood vigil as a great general fought the greatest battle of his life," Cardin said in a statement. "His legacy shall always be an unwavering dedication to the security of the Jewish State of Israel and his willingness to move the peace process forward. May he now find the shalom he always sought for in the land of our ancestors."

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said Sharon "dedicated his life to building the State of Israel and serving the people of Israel."

"I join in honoring his life of dedication and in continuing the rock solid bond between the United States and Israel," Mikulski said in a statement.

Art Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, called Sharon "pretty much the last of the forefathers for Israel's struggle for independence."

He expressed hope that Sharon's dream of peace would come to fruition.

"He has taken dramatic steps to bring peace not just to Israel but to the Arab states and all the people of the Middle East," Abramson said. "We can only hope that his legacy finally will lead to the peace process working and for the peoples of the Middle East to realize their hopes to live in a period of 'normality.'"

Rabbi Chaim Landau, president of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis, praised Sharon as a military leader, politician and as a family man.

Sharon bore the loss of his first wife in a car crash and his son in gun accident, crises that would have "sidelined a normal man," Landau said.

Landau, rabbi emeritus of Greenspring's Ner Tamid congregation, quoted Sharon's speech to the United Nations in late 2005, when he said that peace with Palestine was his "calling and primary mission."

In a matter of months, Sharon was felled by a stroke, never to resume public life.

"One can only possibly imagine with the strength of such an individual leading the charge for peace, what now might have been the current situation between Israel and Palestine," Landau said.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

twitter.com/juliemore

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