Appeal for prayers exposes deep divisions over Sharon's legacy

The question first appeared on a religious web site: Is it right to join nationwide prayers for Prime Minister &to=' target=_blank>Ariel Sharon even if you despise him for forcing Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip?

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu replied it is not. It's wrong, he said, to offer prayers of hope if you believe otherwise in your heart.

The exchange _ posted on the site shortly after Sharon suffered a massive stroke late Wednesday _ highlighted the intense passions binding an unusual nexus of ultra-nationalist settlers, doomsday zealots and influential Christian evangelicals such as Pat Robertson. In the span of just a few years, their views of Sharon have swung from ally to betrayer of Biblical prophecy and his people.

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