Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Israel’s bereaved families Sunday, the eve of the Day of Remembrance for Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism, stressing that their loved ones had not fallen in vain and that the memory of the victims dwells in the hearts of the Israeli people.
“Brothers and sisters, members of the family of bereavement,” said Netanyahu, “on Memorial Day we remember our fallen loved ones, who fell during the Israeli wars and the acts of terror throughout the years.”
The prime minister’s own brother, Yoni, was killed in 1976 while leading an assault force to free Israeli hostages at the Entebbe airport.
“We remember, we weep, and we hurt,” he said. “Each family has its own grief, and the grief felt by every one of us merges with the pain of the entire nation of Israel: pain over the life that has been cut short, pain over the fact that all that is now left is memorial day.
“There is no real remedy and there is no full solace. But there is one deep and fundamental consolation: the knowledge that thanks to those who have fallen, the State of Israel was founded and the Jewish people’s stature took a turn for the better. Thanks to them, we live here, forever.”
“May their memories be blessed,” the prime minister concluded.
Memorial Day events began Sunday afternoon in Jerusalem with a ceremony at the Yad LeBanim building, an association for bereaved families. The event was attended by the prime minister, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and the president of the Supreme Court, Asher Grunis, among others.
“Since our emergence as a people, we have had to fight for our liberty and our existence,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony. “Haters of Israel have exiled us, persecuted us and tried to annihilate the memory of Israel. Even today there are those who threaten to destroy us. They cannot, they will never. We are not belligerent, but if it is destined for us, we will cling to our swords and head into battle.”
Still, he asserted, Israelis’ hands was “extended in peace” to all their neighbors.
Memorial Day marks the beginning of a 48-hour period during which Israelis abruptly go from reflecting on national loss to celebrating their national independence.
At 8 p.m., Memorial Day will officially commence with a minute-long siren, as Israelis bow their heads in memory of the 23,085 members of the country’s security forces who died while in active service. A memorial ceremony at the Western Wall will be attended by President Shimon Peres and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, among others.
In addition to servicemen and women, Memorial Day commemorates the 2,493 civilians who were killed in terror attacks.
Over the past year, 92 names were added to the list of fallen among the ranks of Israel’s security forces. That number includes all soldiers who died while in active service, whether they fell in the battlefield or died of accidents or disease.
Memorial services will be held on Sunday evening and Monday throughout the country, with millions of Israelis visiting the gravesides of deceased family members.
Another ceremony is set to take place at 9 p.m. at Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool, featuring singers and storytellers.
In Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park, Mayor Ron Huldai and the city’s chief rabbi, Yisrael Meir Lau, will attend a ceremony at 7:30 p.m. An hour later, prominent Israeli performers will play at Rabin Square in an open event that will also feature video clips about the fallen.
On Monday morning at 11 a.m., a second, two-minute-long siren will sound. During the day, there will be ceremonies in memory of Israel’s fallen police officers and those who were killed in terror attacks.
The Jewish Agency will hold a ceremony in front of its Jerusalem building in memory of the 200 Jews who were killed worldwide in anti-Semitic attacks since the establishment of the State of Israel.
Schoolchildren throughout the country will attend memorial services on Monday.
Later, when darkness descends, Israel will pass into its 65th Independence Day in a striking transition from sirens and memory to fireworks and revelry.