Mount Herzl Miltary Cemetary.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A memorial ceremony at Mt. Herzl for soldiers killed during the 1956 Sinai Campaign was marred on Sunday when some bereaved relatives demonstratively left before the ceremony began because they had endured difficulty reaching the site, faced stringent security precautions and felt they were left waiting.
At about 11:30, some 30 minutes before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to appear, Yoram Levy – whose brother Rafi Levy, 17, fell in the fighting – urged those sitting in the tent erected over the graves to leave. He said the ceremony was supposed to start at 11:00 – as has been the case for the last number of years – recited kaddish and departed.
Shouting matches ensued.
“I know very well that when the VIPs come, I am not one of the VIPS, you have disrespected us, you should be ashamed.
Apologize to all the families who had to walk from below, who were transported here on garbage trucks,” he shouted at one of the organizers. “If you do not respect us, we will not respect you.”
Another participant, Boaz Tibon, said: “The way this ceremony was organized raises a difficult question: Do these types of events exist to honor our leaders, or those who fell? That dilemma should not even be raised, and that is what we are experiencing here.”
When Netanyahu entered, some shouts were heard, such as, “There is no respect for the fallen.”
President Reuven Rivlin opened his speech by apologizing for the distress caused, but said the reception he and Netanyahu received at the site was completely unnecessary.
“It is a pity that things are mixed into sacred moments like this and dishonor the fallen.”
Netanyahu also apologized for any anguish caused, and then intimated there was a political motivation behind the brouhaha. “You are sitting among the graves,” he said to the families.
“No one distinguished then, and no one should distinguish today, between right and left, between one part of the nation or another. They were all fighters for the Jewish people. That is the way to honor their memories.”
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying the ceremony was scheduled to begin at noon, and Netanyahu arrived 15 minutes early.
According to the statement, the problems relating to reaching the site stemmed from construction work taking place and preparation for the funeral Monday afternoon of Miriam Eshkol, the wife of former prime minister Levi Eshkol.