Israelis stood in silence and bowed their heads for one minute Tuesday evening as the memorial siren blared across the country in commemoration of Remembrance Day.
Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Terrorism began at 8 p.m. with the siren in memory of the fallen, followed by the official ceremony at the Western Wall with President Reuven Rivlin and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi.
This year, attendance at the ceremony was limited to 5,000 people with the Green Pass, meaning that only people with a vaccination certificate or a certificate of recovery were allowed to attend the main ceremony and those at the National Hall for Israel’s Fallen on Mount Herzl and at Yad LaBanim Memorial Center in Jerusalem.
The memorial torch was lit by Maayan Netanel, the daughter of Capt. Yehonatan Natanel, who was killed in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009, and by Amiad Kahlon, the son of Senior Warrant Officer Rami Kahlon, who was killed during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014.
In a speech at the main ceremony, Kohavi said as the commander of the military, his duty is to send the soldiers only to worthy missions and to protect them.
“We will do everything in our power to send them only to worthy missions,” he said. “We will first improve the IDF’s ability to carry out the missions successfully, and at the same time [we will do what we can] to protect and defend our own soldiers.”
“Tens of thousands of soldiers are doing countless missions on a daily basis, and they come back home safely as a result of professionalism and their commanders’ care,” Kohavi said. “This care includes also taking care of those who were wounded and a supreme effort to return the captives and the MIAs to their families and their country.
“Those of you who died protected the country, and we are continuing in the path they paved,” he said.
“Sometimes, the security that the State of Israel benefits from looks like an obvious thing,” Kohavi said. “But behind every safe day stands an entire army, which collects intelligence, defends, prevents infiltrations and shooting attacks, raids, attacks, arrests perpetrators and thwarts terrorist attacks and the use of weapons [against civilians].”
It might seem like a miracle for some, but those who are working hard to maintain this security are not focused on the miracle, but on how to carry out their missions, he said.
“Being a role model is also one of the IDF’s duties: an army that unites all parts of society, which nurtures that unity behind the goal,” Kohavi said.
“The IDF’s soldiers are exercising together, fighting together, winning together,” he said. “And when a comrade dies, we bury him together.”
“The price of independence is a heavy one: 23,928 dead, tens of thousands of people wounded and those who carry wounds on their souls for the rest of their lives,” Kohavi said.
President Reuven Rivlin, who is about to end his seven-year term as president, vowed to continue his struggle to return the captives and missing soldiers, even after he leaves office.
“Seven years ago, when the country was ablaze in Operation Protective Edge, I began my term as president on behalf of the citizens of Israel,” Rivlin said.
“My first baptism by fire was visiting the families of soldiers who had fallen in action,” he said. “I stood before the families and bowed my head on behalf of the Israeli people. I wanted to be with them in their pain, to say what was in my heart. I vowed to sanctify the memories of Israel’s heroes.”
“I did my best to bring back the missing and captive soldiers – may they come back to us, and soon,” Rivlin said. “I worked here in Israel and around the world to defend our soldiers and for our inalienable right to defense and security. I hope that I did right, but I surely did not do enough.”
“I promised you families that I would be your soldier,” he said. “That is what I did, and that is what I will do. Even as I come to the end of my term in office, I am not released from service. As long as I live, I will hold it in my heart and will work on your behalf.”
On Wednesday morning, another siren will sound at 11 a.m. Wednesday night will mark the end of Remembrance Day and the beginning of Independence Day. At 8 p.m., the traditional torch-lighting ceremony will take place at Mount Herzl.