netanyahu at remembrance day ceremony_311.
(photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday addressed the nation at the official ceremony for Israel's Remembrance Day, saying "22,867 of our sons and daughters have fallen. We feel this in the families that were never created, in the children that were never born."
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Chief IDF Rabbi Rafi Peretz opened the ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem with a prayer,
followed by Kadish said by the father of fallen soldier Matan Baskind.
Netanyahu said to those families who have lost loved ones, "I am a part of you. I know what the pain is like. I feel the scar that will never heal. I know the stages. First comes the shock. Then the denial. And then the horrible realization that our loved ones will not return. That they will only live on in our hearts and dreams."
"I know that even when the whole country stands behind you, you want to walk alone with your pain."
The prime minister said that despite the pain, the nation still has a hope for peace.
He emphasized that "we find comfort in better days," and that "only when we defend ourselves can we ensure the future of Israel."
The prime minister's speech was followed by the placing of government wreaths on soldier's graves.
Leading up to the ceremony, citizens gathered at cemeteries throughout the country for the start of Remembrance Day ceremonies.
A special ceremony for overseas Mahal volunteers who fought and died during the War of Independence was scheduled to take place at the Mahal memorial near the Sha’ar Hagai Junction.
Ceremonies were due to be held at an additional 43 cemeteries, and the Defense Ministry said it expects more than 1.5 million people to visit soldiers’ graves throughout the day.
The ministry has purchased more than 1 million flowers, which will be
distributed for free at the state cemeteries. The service is available on a
special website sponsored by the ministry's Department for Commemorating
Soldiers and can be accessed at: http://www.izkor.gov.il
Earlier Monday, Israel Police gathered at Mount Herzl in memory of the country's 1,268 fallen police officers as part of the nationwide Remembrance Day ceremonies. This year, an additional 19 names were added to the list of the fallen.
Launching the Remembrance Day events on Sunday, the nation bowed its head in mourning for the servicemen and -women who fell defending the land 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, 183 soldiers and security personnel died while serving the state. The figure includes the Prisons Service victims of the Carmel fire.
Remembrance Day officially began at 8 p.m. Sunday when a one-minute siren sounded across the country. President Shimon Peres opened the state ceremony
at the Western Wall, which was attended by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and representatives of bereaved families.