Peres lights torch at Yom Hazikaron 370.
(photo credit: Marc Neiman/GPO)
President Shimon Peres on Tuesday spoke at the a Yom Hazikaron ceremony at the Western Wall, just minutes after a siren sounded beckoning a minute-long silence in memory of the fallen soldiers of the IDF.
Peres said that Israel's amazing achievements have been made because of the sacrifices of the dead.
"Your sons and daughters will not return to you... Their bravery has left us alive, but their deaths have left us broken," he said in his opening speech.
"The state of Israel, for which your children sacrificed their lives... is still threatened," he said, adding that the IDF is more prepared than ever to defend Israeli citizens from any and all threats.
Speaking after Peres, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz called the IDF Israel's wall of defense. "We live in a different Middle East than the one we used to," he said, adding that "threats are rising all around us. In this precarious situation, we are witness to attempts by our enemies, near and far, to hurt us.
That said, Gantz praised his soldiers, saying that "while we are here, the IDF is out in the field, united around its goal to protect us."
"The IDF is ready for every battle and every mission," he stated.
The ceremony ended with a Jewish prayer for the fallen soldiers and the singing of Israel's national anthem, Hatikva.
Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed more than 200 soldiers and bereaved families gathered for the Yad Lebanim Memorial for the Fallen in Israel’s Wars.
“For bereaved families, time stops when you get the terrible news… it cuts your life in two: what was before, and what will never be again,”he said.
“When you hear the siren tonight, we will turn into one family, and the citizens of Israel will be united in our remembrance,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony, where he was joined by Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar, as well as Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin and representatives of the police, army, and Home Front Command.
Yad Lebanim (“A Memorial for the Sons”) is the organization that supports bereaved families in cooperation with the Defense Ministry and official government bodies. The Jerusalem memorial, located near the government quarter, is the central memorial for soldiers killed in action in the capital.
Netanyahu spoke to the bereaved families as “my sisters and brothers,” drawing on his own experience of losing his brother, Yonatan Netanyahu, in the Entebbe rescue mission in 1976.
Nava Cohen, who lost her brother in the Yom Kippur War and her son in Hebron during the Second Intifada, spoke on behalf of the bereaved families. “We are always looking for more parts of our son,” she said. “We’re always trying to gather another sentence, another memory, another photograph, so that we can continue to live with our son.” Cohen said the hardest part was following the chain of photographs – from childhood through school and bike trips and finally to the soldier in uniform – until the photos stop abruptly.
“Today, Remembrance Day, is a day when all of Israel is united in the remembrance of these soldiers,” she said. “Every story, from every soldier, is a story of his life and also a story of the nation of Israel.” She also pleaded with the Defense Ministry not to combine the branch that supports bereaved families with other government ministries where it could be overlooked.
Other ceremonies will take place across Israel as the country memorializes those lost in wars and terror attacks with sirens at 8 pm on Tuesday night and 11 am on Wednesday. The Prime Minister will speak at both the official ceremony for the fallen in Israel’s Wars on Wednesday morning as well as the state ceremony for the Victims of Terrorism in Israel and Abroad. Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.