The ceremony for Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day, at the KotelYom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, began this evening at sundown with a very moving ceremony at the Kotel. President Reuven Rivlin addressed the audience and the nation:
President Reuven Rivlin began speaking at the official ceremony at the Western Wall (Kotel) before bereaved families on Tuesday night, noting how the shared experience of having loved ones who fell defending Israel unites all segments of Israel’s society.
“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 president said. “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.
Aside from physically defending the state, Rivlin also spoke about the mission of defending the essence of the state, saying the Jewish people will not “make do with survival,” but instead will “live” as a free nation with creativity and vision.
“For the Jewish people, survival alone has never and should never suffice,” he said.
“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…
“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.”
Binyamin Netanyahu also spoke movingly:
“This day is the most difficult for us,” related the PM, whose brother Yoni was killed during the famous IDF operation to free hostages at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. “The warm embrace that we receive strengthens us but it cannot console us for the terrible loss. The pain rends our hearts, the grief chokes us and the longing will never go away.
“On Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars, we recall the heroism of those who gave their souls for the existence and security of the State of Israel,” he said.
“To our sorrow, in the current Middle East we are obliged to continue fighting for our existence, and our existence here is not self-evident without this sacrifice.
“Only thanks to the iron wall, every brick of which is held by our sons and daughters of the IDF and the security services, only thanks to them can we continue to live our lives here and continue to raise our children and grandchildren here.”
Since this time last year over 70 soldiers and civilians, killed last summer during Operation Protective Edge, Tzuk Etan, were added to the awful list of Israeli victims of war and terror, along with 31 terror victims.
Heading this list of victims are the three Israeli teenagers, Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Shayer and Eyal Yifrach, whose kidnap and murder sparked the vicious missile onslaught from Gaza onto Israel’s population which triggered the whole war.
In memory of Gil-Ad, Naftali and Eyal, this beautiful song was written by popular Israeli performer David D’Or, and was performed jointly by several singers including David D’Or, Avraham Fried, Kobi Aflalo, Yishai Ribo, Yonatan Razel and David Broza. Other singers include Liad Fisher, Amir Ben Gal, Gavriel Lederman, Chanan Einstein, Yedidia Yosef and Yehuda Malka.
The lyrics are so emotional they bring tears to the eyes, and are so poetic in the way they pick up on the boys’ names and use them in reference to Biblical verses which describe the travails we all went through last summer. (h/t Reality).
Here the words in Hebrew on the right, with my English translation on the left.
It is of utmost importance for us to remember not only those who were killed but those who were terribly injured and maimed during the fighting. One of those was Yehuda Hayisraeli, a soldier who was terribly injured during the war and has not yet woken up. In the meantime his wife has given birth to a son, and is struggling with her husband’s situation. Here is her heartfelt, terribly moving post from Facebook:
“In less than 48 hours it will come. Memorial Day. Ceremonies will begin. The memories, the stories of the fallen. Everyone will remember those fallen heroes who defended the country with devotion and tell their life stories. They are in pain, they weep, they miss their loved ones.
But this is not your day Yehuda .. God forbid. Because you’re alive. You’re with us. No matter that you to did not return from war last summer. No matter that we suffered a loss and nobody assures us we’ll get you back .. it does not matter that your life stopped in a moment, the dreams, desires, the aspirations, yours and ours as a family.
You do not even know you have lost a friend in the same incident that led to the injury ..
And I’m sad, I’m sad because I want Yehuda to be remembered. The one that we lost in the meantime .. not the lying in bed, frail and helpless. I want them to know who you were, what you did, what were your aspirations, what you believe .. you deserve it! And I feel that I too am slowly forgetting ..
It is true that they gave their lives for the country and died as heroes. But you continue to give daily your soul, you fight, with courage and heroism, because you know that in this war you must not give up. You cannot surrender. You continue to bear the results of your sacrifice then, every day.
And you deserve it! You deserve that you will be remembered as a great man, because you were.. that you will be missed, people will learn from you ..
But God forbid .. you are here. You’re with us. And after all, we do not eulogize a living person.
So we will continue to act with restraint, to want to talk about who you are but do not dare. to miss you and hope that one day you will come back .. and you will continue, you will continue to fight every day, every hour, and give up all your normal life for the people of Israel. Because that’s what you always wanted to do ..
Just please Yehuda .. I beg you .. that this should be the last Memorial Day for us. ”
I add here a message which Yehuda sent to me a few days before he was injured in order to remember who Yehuda is..
The message was written at the funeral of Lieutenant Colonel Dolev Kedar, who was killed by an anti-tank missile, a few days before Yehuda was injured.
“Tuesday, the funeral of Battalion Commander Geffen. Operation Protective Edge. The campaign that we all wanted, we all understand the importance and necessity and on the other hand, without contradiction, are pained by the loss of our heroic brothers boys who died for the sanctification of G-d’s name.
I think that any serious military commander reaches a point where he internalizes the importance of diligence, of learning, of the mission of our profession as soldiers and commanders ..
Diligence, diligence, diligence.
Internalize that what we are doing here is not a game and not fun, but an investment, devotion, endless giving to the people of Israel. And this is a mission that must not be abandoned for a moment. We must internalize the importance of the dedication, the laying oneself on the altar of the homeland for the sanctification of G-d’s name in the world, by strengthening the nation of Israel in the Land of Israel.
May we merit to sanctify life through endless dedication of all normal life, in whatever capacity, throughout all our lifetime. “
What an amazing spirit and strength of character is expressed in these words!
Please continue praying for a refuah shlema, a complete and speedy recovery for Yehuda Yitzchak ben Iris Hayisraeli.
May this coming year see no more additions to the list of Israel’s fallen heroes.
May the memory of our fallen be for a blessing for all of Am Yisrael. Yehi zichram baruch.
יהי זכרם ברוך