Mourners hold candles at Remembrance Day ceremony 150.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The State of Israel will not agree to live under constant threats like those
emerging from the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East, IDF Chief of Staff
Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz declared Tuesday night during the official state
Remembrance Day ceremony at the Western Wall.
Gantz spoke just minutes
after sirens sounded throughout the country at 8 p.m. and people bowed
their heads to mourn the 22,993 soldiers who have fallen in defense of Israel
since 1860 – the year the first Jews left Jerusalem’s Old City walls to settle
other parts of the country.
In the past year, 126 soldiers and security
personnel died in service of the state. On Wednesday, the main memorial will
take place at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Military Cemetery.
siren will sound at 11 a.m., and ceremonies will take place at an additional 44
cemeteries around the country.
The Defense Ministry said it expects over
1.5 million people to visit the cemeteries throughout the day.
fog of the revolutions began to settle, we began to see a different Middle East
presenting new challenges,” Gantz said. “In this new, dubious reality, we
witness attempts by our enemies, both far and near, to harm everything we’ve
He used his speech also to stress the importance of serving in
“We have an obligation to overcome the social gaps, to stand
united and to serve in the military. Only this way will we be prepared for every
challenge,” he said.
President Shimon Peres, who spoke just before Gantz,
tried to comfort the bereaved families and said that the country’s amazing
achievements were the results of their personal sacrifices.
and daughters will not return to you... Their bravery has left us alive, but
their deaths have left us broken,” he said.
Earlier, Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu addressed more than 200 soldiers and bereaved families
gathered Tuesday for the Yad LeBanim Memorial for the Fallen in Israel’s
“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.”
him at the ceremony were chief rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar, as well as
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and representatives of the police, army and Home
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
Netanyahu spoke to the bereaved families as “my sisters and
brothers,” drawing on his own experience of losing his brother Yonatan in the
1976 Entebbe rescue mission.
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.”
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, memorial day, is a day when all of Israel
is united in the remembrance of these soldiers,” she said.
from every soldier, is a story of his life and also a story of the nation of
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.
The prime minister will speak at both the
official Wednesday morning ceremony for the fallen, and the state ceremony for
the victims of terrorism in Israel and abroad.