Yom Hazikaron: the President speaks

April 22, 2015 Agencies
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Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin has addressed the commemoration of Yom Hazikaron…Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Terrorism.

President Rivlin kindling the memorial flame together with Mrs. Moriah Ashkenazi, widow of First Sergeant Yair Ashkenazi, who fell in battle during Operation Protective Edge. Photo: Kobi Gidon (GPO)

President Rivlin kindling the memorial flame together with Mrs. Moriah Ashkenazi, widow of First Sergeant Yair Ashkenazi, who fell in battle during Operation Protective Edge.
Photo: Kobi Gidon (GPO)

The event, held at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, was also addressed by IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, and attended by IDF commanding officers, and members of bereaved families.  The President was joined in kindling the memorial flame by Mrs. Moriah Ashkenazi, widow of First Sergeant Yair Ashkenazi, who fell in battle during Operation Protective Edge.

The President said, “Last summer, I traveled far and wide, across this country.  I visited the homes of beloved and wonderful boys who fell defending the country during Operation Protective Edge.  The geography of pain, as I learned, stretched the length and breadth of the country, yet it did not divide it.  Death struck at the door of many, regardless of their religious beliefs. No camp was left untouched by death.  I saw the sons of the Kibbutzim, of the Settlements, of the villages, towns and cities, Jews and non-Jews, lone soldiers and new immigrants.  I got to them though, too late.  I got to know them, when they were already gone.  I watched them laughing in home movies, I saw them smiling in photographs, hugging their nephews, holding their girlfriends hands, who are left bereft.

The bereaved family is intertwined, with a shared fate.  A fate which was forced upon them.  Israeli society, with all its camps, is connected not just in terms of shared destiny, but in terms of purpose and meaning.  Memorial Day is a day upon which we, all of us, gather together in the national mourning tent.  On this day, we open the tabernacles of terrible grief; we release the pent-up longing.  How can we come to terms within ourselves, and with the memory of our loved ones, if there were just one day on which we focused on the pain and sorrow?  We mourn tonight for the fate of our sons and daughters.  And yet, at the same time, how can we stand at their graves, how can we think of the children that they will never have, or of the children left orphaned, if we do not consider the meaning, the purpose of their sacrifice?

The President spoke of the importance of and constant need for preparedness in the face of future conflicts.  He said, “We are not a people of war.  Our sons do not charge blood thirsty into battle.  Not during this nor any other summer, or in those which sadly, and Heaven forbid, still may come.  The need to fight has been forced upon us.  And for our children it has been decreed that they should continue to bear arms in order to defend to our borders, our homes – this wonderful enterprise which we have built here.  The struggle for our existence is still not a matter of choice.  Our obligation, to ourselves, our children and grandchildren, is to be sure to do everything in our power to prevent the next war.  In order to clarify to our enemies, that should they chose to go to war against us, we will stand strong as we have always stood strong.  We look at the current reality and must ensure that we are doing everything in our power to be prepared and ready for the next conflict.  We will always promise that while we will never accept this decree of fate, at the same time, we are also ready to pay the price of our existence here.  This reality which has been forced upon us, must not lead us to accept the sacrifice, even if we recognize it is a necessity.  Amidst this tension, we are obligated to continue to live, for the sake of our loved ones who are lost, and for our children who remain.”

The President concluded by stressing importance of fighting not only for Israel’s existence, but for its character. He said, “For the Jewish people, survival alone has never and should never suffice.  The DNA of this nation is one of faith and creativity.  We insist on survival because we believe in life.  Because we believe in a vision of being a free nation.  From the ashes we have risen. Over the graves of our children, siblings, parents and friends, we have risen from misery and despair to have hope and faith.  This hope and faith is what leads us on our path.  We will continue in our self-reflection on our image, values and future, in their name and in the name of our children, between ourselves, between the family that is the citizens of Israel.  The deaths of those who died defending our home, forces us to deepen our commitment to building that home; as a more just home, as a more compassionate home, as a home where not only those who have fallen, but all those within it are equal.  This is our debt to their heroic deeds, and their lives which were lost.”

IDF Chief-of-Staff Gadi Eizenkot spoke and said, “For me, for the ‘People of Israel’ means an eternal, unwavering promise, to keep the memory of those who fell along the way. We, who sent them to the mission from which they did not return, who deposited in their hands the torch of defense and security, who fought alongside them – we carry with us their image. Their memory leads us and guides our steps.”

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