Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which boasts of its closeness with US President Donald Trump’s administration, failed to send a representative to the annual 9/11 ceremony at a memorial built by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund outside Jerusalem.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog attended the event, along with US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Iowa governor Kim Reynolds, and family members of victims in the attacks. Event organizers said they invited President Reuven Rivlin as well as multiple ministers, all of whom turned down the invitation.
Herzog laid a wreath on behalf of the government, while emphasizing repeatedly in his speech that he was there only as a representative of the Knesset.
The Jerusalem Post reached cabinet secretary Tzahi Braverman, who was responsible for ensuring a minister attended the event, but he did not provide an explanation.
“On September 11, we all fell victim to the genocidal force of our time – radical Islamic terrorism,” Friedman said. “No country has paid a greater price in the battle against radical Islamic terror than the State of Israel.”
Listing a dozen terrorism attacks in Israel since Hebron in 1929, Friedman said it was appropriate that Israel is home to the only memorial outside the US that bears all the names of the victims of the attacks.
Friedman said it was possible to take comfort that in retrospect, “the forces of decency and civility have triumphed at the expense of evil and hate.” He expressed hope that terrorist groups like Hamas, al-Qaida and Islamic State have been weakened and “are on their way to the dustbin of history.”
Family members of victims of 9/11 introduced themselves in what was the event’s emotional highlight. Naomi Shefi was three when her father, Hagay Shefi, the CEO of a hi-tech company, was killed on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center. She attended the ceremony in uniform and said she is serving in the same unit as her father did.
Herzog said that “the attacks of 9/11 were not only an attack on the US, they were an attack on the values of democracy, freedom and equality.” He said Israel was bound together with the US by a shared commitment to those values.
“The terrorists know that in a world of individual freedom and tolerance, their dark creed of hatred does not stand a chance,” Herzog said. “We will always stand together with America in the fight against terrorism and extremism. It is a fight we are all too familiar with. To defeat the terrorists, we must destroy them militarily, but we must also show that our ideals are stronger than theirs.”
The ceremony was also attended by leaders of StandWithUs, the Anti-Defamation League, Nefesh B’Nefesh and Heroes to Heroes, a peer support program for combat veterans from both Israel and the United States. Also in attendance were a delegation of 50 US police officers, delegations of US and Israeli firefighters and pilots from United Airlines.
The JNF’s Sunshine Mission, led by Chief Planned Giving Officer Matt Bernstein and Speaker’s Bureau head Cheryl Lefland, arrived from the United States especially for the ceremony.
The 9/11 Living Memorial was established in 2009 by KKL-JNF, in collaboration with JNF-USA.
“It is incredibly special to be part of this heartfelt memorial in Jerusalem,” StandWithUS CEO Roz Rothstein said. “That this monument is the only one outside of the USA to mention the names of all of the fallen is a sign of the deep and meaningful relationship between Israelis and Americans.”