Israel does not rush to battle, but its willingness to sacrifice is the guarantor of its existence, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, just a day after he agreed to a ceasefire in the South instead of a much wider military campaign against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu’s words came at a ceremony in Jerusalem marking Remembrance Day, which began Tuesday evening to commemorate fallen IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens killed in terrorist actions.
Thanks to those who fell, Netanyahu said, “our nation stands upright in our homeland, after generations of weakness and humiliation.
“Seventy-five years ago we were ash,” he continued. “Today we are a rising world power. Since our national rebirth in our land, every generation stands firm against those who seek our harm. We do not rush to battle, but we know that our willingness to sacrifice is what guarantees our fate.”
Netanyahu, who lost his brother Yonatan in the IDF raid on Entebbe in 1976 to free hijacked Israeli hostages, spoke about how memories of the fallen are always with those who live on after them.
“There is almost never a day when we are not flooded with memories of our loved ones,” he said. “The smiles they smiled, the words they said, the things they did – as if they were really with us, but they are not.”
Those memories, the prime minister said, accentuate the vacuum that their passing created, and brings sharp pain.
“It is impossible not to think what would have happened with the rest of their lives,” Netanyahu said of the fallen. “What would have stayed the same, and what would have changed? What would they have contributed: to their families, to the society and the state and – who knows – to humanity?”
Israel this year will be marking the 50th anniversary of the War of Attrition, Netanyahu said, noting that many people call that war from 1967-1970 the “forgotten war.”
“But I remember it well, he said, explaining that he joined the army after the 1967 Six Day War, and, like many, felt that he missed out on the action. “Within a short time there were new challenges – artillery barrages, terrorist infiltrations – but that did not weaken our spirit. We stood up to them and fought back.”
Netanyahu recalled how he lost a close childhood friend in the War of Attrition, and how others he knew fell shortly afterward in the Yom Kippur War.
“Many people I knew fell in the Yom Kippur War, but the house stood,” he said. “We stopped the surprise attack with great heroism, and merited a miraculous and tremendous victory. We will always remember that the fate of our country stood in the balance, and were it not for our beloved ones who fell, the state would have fallen. Thanks to them, we exist.”
Netanyahu finished his 10-minute address by pledging to repatriate all of Israel’s missing in action, just as the remains of Sgt. Zachary Baumel were returned home for burial last month.