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Body of Ariel Sharon lies in state at Israeli parliament before funeral

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NEW: "He was one of the giants," one mourner says

NEW: Memorial ceremony, procession and military funeral set for Monday

Sharon is remembered for his controversial military and political career

Israeli officials praise him, while some in the Mideast criticize him

Jerusalem CNN —  

Thousands of people paid their last respects to Israel’s former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Sunday as his body lay in state outside the nation’s parliament.

“He was one of the giants. He was very special,” said Ayala Weisel, who said she grew up learning of Sharon as a widely admired soldier who fought for his country.

She was one of many mourners who shared memories of Sharon.

Chaim Friedman, a tour guide, described Sharon as a decisive leader.

“He was known as the bulldozer because he got his way and he made things happen. He’s well respected for that,” Friedman said. “Sometimes in Israel, you have to do it the straight way, or you have to find the other way to get things done, and he managed to do it.”

Blake Fleisher of New York said he admired Sharon for disobeying orders and doing what he thought was right in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War. Sharon’s decision to lead 200 tanks and 5,000 men over the Suez Canal was a turning point in the war.

“He moved the tanks in a different way than he was commanded to do, and that’s what saved the state of Israel, and that’s why so many people are here today,” Fleisher said.

A state memorial ceremony for Sharon is planned for Monday. World leaders, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, will attend the memorial, which will be followed by a funeral procession.

The procession will include a stop in Latrun for a special meeting of the Israel Defense Forces and will end with a military funeral at Sharon’s Shikmim Ranch.

In remarks on Saturday, Netanyahu remembered his predecessor as a warrior and a political leader.

“The State of Israel bows its h