"We've been forced as a nation to fight for our right to exist," said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday afternoon at the opening ceremony to honor the fallen IDF soldiers, ahead of Remembrance Day that takes place on Monday.
"Since our formation we had to fight for our freedom. Haters prosecuted us in each generation, harmed us and sought to erase Israel off the face of the earth," Netanyahu opened his speech at the Yad Labanim memorial site in Jerusalem.
"We are not eager to fight and we are not blood thirsty, our hand is outstretched for peace with all nations, all countries," the prime minister said. "But throughout the generations, we learned that only a strong defensive force can ensure that we will not be harmed."
Netanyahu also related to the bereaved families through his own loss, of his brother Yonatan Netanyahu, who was killed in action during the 1976 Operation Entebbe in Uganda.
"My family also paid the price of Israel's independence. I too experienced the agony of loss and grace," he said.
The prime minister told of a dedication his father, Benzion Netanyahu, wrote for Yonatan in his book, describing grief as something that does not let go. "Grief doesn't let go of any one of us of the bereaved families," he said.
However, Netanyahu noted that "bereavement does not take away from your soul and your strong spirit. This is the secret of our strength and fortitude."
On this day of remembrance, the "eyes of the nation are turned to [you, the bereaved families] and the nation takes you into their hearts and pays their respect," he said. The prime minister told the bereaved families that today, the nation looks "to your noble behavior facing a pain that doesn't let go, and takes from the strength of your spirit."
And comforted them with the thought that "the sons and daughters, the fathers and mothers, the brothers and sisters did not die in vain, and only thanks to their self-sacrifice can we be a free nation in our country."