Yom Hazikaron in Israel

May 8, 2019 by J-Wire
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Both President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated in events commemorating Yom Hazikaron, a day in which tributes are paid to those who gave up their lives for the State of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Yad Lebanim in Jerusalem.  Photo: Kobi Gideon (GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the assembly for Memorial Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars at Yad Lebanim in Jerusalem.

He said: “The light of the memorial candle that is being lit today across Israel also shines on the rest of the 364 days of the year. One day versus 364, but they are equally important. It is thanks to our sons and daughters, our fallen loved ones whose memories burn in our souls, that our lives are safeguarded and our country exists. Without them, where would we be? Today we bow our heads and pay our respects to Israel’s 23,741 fallen soldiers: Jews, Druze, Muslims, Christians, Bedouins and Circassians.

To this, we add the thousands of victims of terrorist attacks, including the four innocent citizens who were killed earlier this week by rockets fired by terrorists in Gaza. We send our deep condolences to their families. Each person who has fallen makes a wound in our hearts. No one knows this better than you and I, my brothers and sisters. The pain and grief never cease. Often, I am told by the relatives of the fallen: “After having received the bitter news, we had to learn how to breathe again.” The lump in our throats is there all the time, day and night. There is no clear explanation of how to cope with the loss. On the one hand, we go about our daily lives, and on the other hand, not a day passes without being reminded of the faces of our loved ones, their smiles, the words they said and the things they did – as if they were here with us. But they are not here. And each time we are overcome by memories of them, we once again feel the void and the aching pain.

We cannot help but imagine what their lives could have been, what would have changed and what would have remained the same, what they would have done for the families they had or the ones they would start, for our society, for our country, and perhaps for humanity as a whole. So many questions. You know better than anyone that one does not just have to cope with the pain at that terrible moment of receiving the bitter news, a moment that cannot even be described; nor during that first year. Coping with the pain is a lifelong process. So how do we move forward?

Perhaps each and every one of you find his or her own way to deal with the loss, but if there is one thing that unites many of us, maybe all of us, it is the understanding of the great mission that our loved ones carried out. It gives us the strength to bear the burden of grief. It is thanks to them that we live as a proud people in our homeland after many generations of weakness and humiliation. Seventy-five years ago, we were powerless. Today we are a rising world power. And since the national revival in our homeland – every generation has stood strong against our enemies. We do not want war but we know that our willingness to make sacrifices is the thing that guarantees our survival.”

President Reuven Rivlin spoke at the torch-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall.

President Reuven Rivlin at the “Songs in their Memory” event at the Knesset. Photo: Mark Neiman/GPO

He said: “‘Death in war begins with the descending of stairs by one young man. Death in war begins with the silent closing of a door, death in war begins with the opening of a window to see.’ So wrote the poet Yehuda Amichai in his poem ‘From Man Thou Art and To Man Thou Shalt Return’. Dear families, every year I stand before you here, at the wall of mercy and of tears, trembling and moved by the sanctity of this evening, by the weight of responsibility of this place, and by the heavy-heartedness of your eyes – so many eyes, too many. How heavy is the heart. One night a year, I stand here as the emissary of the Israeli people, and ask on their behalf, on behalf of us all, to tell you that today, more than any other day, our well-being is bound up in yours. Our well-being is bound up in yours.

On this Yom HaZikaron, hearts are as one. And our eyes are open, our hands stretched out our ears listening and we ask you to tell us. Tell us of the person that was. I know that you think and believe that we do not understand. That we will never understand. That we will never be able to feel how the pain courses through you, how it is burnt into you, how the scar opens every morning afresh. I know you think that we will not understand. Not understand how after twenty, thirty, forty years you are still wrenched when the birthday comes around. But today, we ask you – despite everything – to tell us. Tell us, Dad, about that spot on the doorframe that he rested his elbow on when you were talking. Tell us, Mom, about the sofa that took the shape of his body when he sat and read, about the tooth he broke when he fell off his bike, about the last argument you had, about what he planned to be when he grew up. Tell us, brother, about the music you introduced him to, about the last time he protected you from the parents. Tell us, sister, about the last heart-to-heart you wanted to have with her and never managed. Tell us, grandpa, about the never-ending supply of candies he got from you. Tell us, grandma, about the holiday when she slept over at your house alone, and how excited she was about it. Tell us, girlfriend, about the trees and the birds that only he knew the names of, and about that fight that you thought your relationship would never survive and how you surprised yourselves when it did. Tell us about her, about him, tell us about the person. Take us to that space which is so full, crammed full, that they left behind in your hearts. Allow us to remember them.

 A month ago, we brought Sergeant First Class Zachary Baumel  ז”לto eternal rest, 37 years after he fell in the battle of Sultan Yakub. In this way, the State of Israel kept its promise to every mother and father in Israel, the obligation to bring home the men and women who did not return from battle. This is a commitment that we continue to make to the families of every one of the missing soldiers of the IDF and those fallen soldiers whose place of burial is unknown. We will not cease until they have all been brought back. But that is not the only commitment we make to the mothers and fathers who bring their children to the recruitment base and hug them with tears and a trembling heart. The commitment that accompanies them, with that hug and the look of concern in their eyes, one generation of Israelis to the next, is the promise that the state that we have been building here for almost 71 years will be a country fit for our children and grandchildren – strong and secure, and at the same time just and fair. Focused on its aims and steadfast, and at the same time open and good-humoured. Yes, good-humoured. A place that is always carrying its faith, its history and its rich, long, deep and painful culture, but that always, and first and foremost, knows to seek life. A normal life of sun and sea, of prayers and songs, of streets buzzing with daily life, and simple goodness.

Dear families, these two promises, to build by the sweat of our brow a life worth living for our children, quiet and secure, and to bring them home even if they did not return from battle, these are the commitments at the heart of our lives here. They are not the conditions for signing a contract. They are the basis of the Israeli covenant. The State of Israel was established from dreams and beliefs, and from the great desire for a home of our own. Even back then, the founding fathers of Zionism knew that its great strength would always be in the spirit of its humanity. Believing in the existence of a great and mighty ‘us’. Seventy-one years have passed. As it was then, so is it today. All our wonders are built on one thing – the sons and daughters of this land, on the ‘us’.

Dear families, I stand humbled before the strengths you developed without wishing for them. The ability to get up in the morning and get out of bed. To open your eyes to a new day. The hope that it will be better. The knowledge that perhaps in the future you will be able to be happy again. Those are the strengths that you, and only you, possess, but they are an unbelievable source of strength for us, as a people and a state.

On behalf of us all, I send strength and wishes for a speedy recovery to the casualties of the IDF and the security forces, whose minds and bodies bear the scars of war, and now face a long journey to return to health. We promise to be with them on the journey. ‘Therefore do not weep for he who departs,’ Yehuda Amichai asked of us in that same poem. ‘Weep for he who descends the steps of his home …weep for the photograph who remembers instead of us. …And this spring who will arise and say to the dust: From man thou art and to man thou shalt return.’ May He who makes peace on high bring peace to us and to all Israel. May the memory of the fallen, our soldiers, our heroes, be bound up in the bond of life, and in our hearts forever and ever.”

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