The sacrifice of Israel's soldiers will not be forgotten

Each one of our brave men and women had a family, friends, hopes and dreams that will never be realized.

REMEMBRANCE Day is devoted to the memory of those who gave up their lives so that the State of Israel could exist today. Pictured: Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem. (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
REMEMBRANCE Day is devoted to the memory of those who gave up their lives so that the State of Israel could exist today. Pictured: Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
Every year on Remembrance Day, I visit the grave of my late father, Yosef Danon. My father is one of more than 23,000 who gave their lives so that we may be able to live in peace and security in the Land of Israel.
Behind every one of our fallen soldiers, there is a story that could fill entire bookshelves. Each one of our brave men and women had a family, friends, hopes and dreams that will never be realized.
My father, Yosef, was born in Alexandria, Egypt, as the eldest son of a family of nine. He immigrated to Israel at the age of 10 with his entire family. 
They came penniless, leaving the entirety of their belongings in Egypt, as it was forbidden to take anything out of the country.
Despite the shortages and austerity of the transit camp where he grew up, he felt a deep connection to the Land of Israel. Over the years, my father came to know every trail and every village. He became one of the best navigators the IDF has ever had in its ranks.
During one of his stints of reserve duty in the Jordan Valley, he sustained a severe head injury in a battle with terrorists who had infiltrated Israel. He struggled with his injuries for many painful years, until they eventually led to his death.
Despite the hardships he suffered, my father remained optimistic and, to our wonder, even more so after the acute injuries he sustained. He rose to every challenge that life threw at him and never gave up.
Because of his unique character and life experiences, we chose to engrave his tombstone with the inscription “He fought all his life.” This is our testament to his endless endurance and optimism.
Fate has it that the yahrzeit of my father’s death is coupled with Remembrance Day. Every year, I feel that my personal and national remembrance become intertwined. While I accompany my mother to my father’s grave with family and friends, young soldiers prepare for the state ceremony in the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv. While we utter a silent memorial prayer for my father, they light thousands of memorial candles for the soldiers who selflessly gave their lives for our state.
Last year, due to corona, I could not visit my father’s grave. This year I will once again return with close family and friends who will recount stories of my father’s courage, determination and sense of humor. My appetite for these stories is unceasing.
We, the bereaved families, never forget. After a year of the pandemic, there is a hint of consolation at being able to personally visit the graves, attend ceremonies, unify our memories and connect and embrace with the people of Israel.
On this special day which was established in memory of Israel’s fallen soldiers, every widow, parent or bereaved brother or sister will be reunited with the individual recollection of their loved ones. We will also share the collective memories of our IDF men and women who valiantly fought and died for Israel. Photo albums will be reopened, pictures shared, and we will pore over the remnants of their letters from a time past.
As a nation that has sacrificed our men and women in our struggle to protect our people and our country, we have, over the years, developed a unique ability to stand together in the most difficult of moments. Israel, more than any other nation on earth, is incredibly able to actually realize the concept of mutual togetherness.
On this day of remembrance we put aside our differences and stand together, united, as one family. We mourn the unbearable loss and cherish those who gave their lives for their people and their homeland.
Every day, despite the permanent hole in our hearts, we ensure that the memory of our loved ones is inscribed in Israel’s present and future, just as it is engraved in Israel’s past. Their memory lives on. Their contribution will never be forgotten.
The writer served as Israel’s 17th permanent representative to the United Nations, science and technology minister, and deputy defense minister. He is currently chairman of the World Likud.