Every year, Israelis of all political and religious persuasions set their differences aside and unite in memory of the heroes whose sacrifices make the very existence of a safe, secure and prosperous Jewish state possible. A few hours before the solemn siren sounds throughout Israel, a sense of silent sorrow permeates the air and a celestial presence is felt that seems to be unique to our tiny nation.

While many countries designate a memorial day on their national calendars to commemorate their losses in some of history’s bloodiest wars, the atmosphere is different then what is experienced here, and one does not find the same sense of sadness and unity all Israelis feel on this holy day. Ours is an exceptional blend of personal and public mourning weaved into one heart-wrenching day.

On Remembrance Day we all retell the stories of bravery and martyrdom displayed by these heroes of Israel. Through these tales that describe intense battles and highlight our mutual heritage we try to breathe new life into our loved ones who are no longer with us. Still, we know deep down that no amount of touching memorials and heartwarming poems will bring back our heroes.

For me, the day’s biggest challenge is the almost impossible task of passing my family’s torch of memory on to my children. My best attempts at describing the brave character of their grandfather, who fought valiantly in defense of a country that he loved so much, always seem incomplete and insufficient.

The stories that I tell and the photos that I show my children have given them some sense of who my father was, but I realize that they will never have the opportunity to meet this exceptional personality whose love and guidance played such a huge part in who I am today.

ON THIS special day we should take it upon ourselves not only to remember the heroes who were killed in defense of their country, but also the brave bereaved families who are left behind. I am referring to the heroism of parents who despite being put in the cursed situation of burying their children vow to put every effort in to going on with their lives.

The heroism of siblings that find themselves trying to fill an interminable void. The heroism of the orphans, whose parents have gone in an instant from being the most important person in their lives, to just an honored memory. From being their greatest source of comfort and stability to being a gaping hole in their personal biography that will never be replaced.

And of course, the heroism of the widows who somehow find the strength to turn in to lionesses that guard their young and leave no stone unturned in ensuring that they grow up feeling loved and protected.

This is true heroism, for which no citations are awarded.

Today, as we stand at attention and pay our respects to the brave men and women who fought valiantly in our nation’s wars, we must also honor the heroes still living amongst us. After all, on this day we experience for a short while the pain and loss that the bereaved families feel every hour of every day. Today, for 24 short hours we are reminded what they go through and why it is so important that we stand resolutely at their sides.

The writer is deputy defense minister, chairman of the World Likud and author of Israel: The Will to Prevail.

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