Israeli Memorial Day 2019 .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel will not rest until it brings home all missing IDF soldiers, President Reuven Rivlin said in the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Western Wall Tuesday night.
“A month ago, we brought Sgt.-Maj. Zachary Baumel, of blessed memory, to eternal rest, 37 years after he fell in the battle of Sultan Yacoub [in Lebanon],” Rivlin said. “The State of Israel kept its promise to every mother and father in Israel: the obligation to bring home the men and women who did not return from battle. This is a commitment we continue to make to the families of every one of the missing soldiers of the IDF, and those fallen soldiers whose place of burial is unknown. We will not cease until they have all been brought back.”
Rivlin addressed soldiers and bereaved families immediately after the one-minute siren brought much of the country to a standstill to remember the 23,741 fallen soldiers and 3,150 victims of terrorism since 1860.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made similar remarks in his address at an earlier Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Labanim in Jerusalem, pledging to repatriate all of Israel’s missing in action, just as the remains of Baumel were returned home for burial last month.
Rivlin said there is another commitment to the parents whose children enlist in the IDF: “that the state that we have been building here for almost 71 years will be a country fit for our children and grandchildren – strong and secure, and at the same time just and fair.
“A place that is always carrying its faith, its history and its rich, long, deep and painful culture – but that always, and first and foremost, knows to seek life. A normal life of sun and sea, of prayers and songs, of streets buzzing with daily life, and simple goodness.”
Rivlin asked families to feel open to share their pain with others. “We ask you – despite everything – to tell us… Tell us about her, about him, tell us about the person. Take us to that space which is so full, crammed full, that they left behind in your hearts. Allow us to remember them.
“Today, more than any other day, our well-being is bound up in yours,” the president said.
Rivlin lit a memorial torch at the beginning of the ceremony, together with Sima Avrahami, wife of Pascal Yom Tov Avrahami, who fell in 2011 at the Egyptian border.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said in his address that the strength the IDF used in fighting the wars of Israel came not from tanks and vengines but from the spirit of the soldiers. Kochavi gave examples of Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Hebraicized and Arabic last names to show that the soldiers reflected the makeup of the nation of Israel, and all served as one.
“They fought for the ground we stand on, and the ground was pulled out from under you, dear families,” he said. “The sound of the siren is like a mother who lost her son, like a daughter who lost her father… The siren has another power. It breaks down the barriers between factions, crumbles divisions and unites the nation… It reduces the marginal and highlights the important – dedication, giving and service to all.”
Honoring the memory of the fallen is not enough, Kochavi added, saying that although IDF soldiers must be willing to endanger their lives for the sake of their mission, the IDF must try to reduce the number of those killed in routine times as well as in wartime.
“We have a strong, well-trained and equipped army with the manpower. It is an army motivated by faith in the justice of our cause and a commitment to defending the nation, that remembers its purpose and stands ready to fulfil its mission with satisfaction and pride,” the chief of staff stated.
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