Bereaved families group to meet with Gallant, Regev

Bereaved parents said to ask to bar Ben Gvir from Beersheba Memorial Day ceremony

Mayor tells parents that city has no control over who attends ceremonies organized by Defense Ministry in military cemeteries; urges leaving politics out of sensitive day

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir seen at the entrance to the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, March 9, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir seen at the entrance to the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, March 9, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

A bereaved father has asked the Beersheba municipality to bar far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir from a Memorial Day event to be held in the city, the Walla news site reported Monday.

According to the report, several other bereaved parents joined the call to keep away the divisive leader of the Otzma Yehudit party. Ben Gvir is scheduled to be the government representative at the ceremony at the cemetery.

However, Mayor Ruvik Danilovich wrote back to the parents saying that the city had no control over who participated in the events, which are organized by the Defense Ministry.

“It’s worth clarifying that we have never ever been consulted, in any memorial ceremony taking place in a military ceremony (including this year),” Danilovich wrote.

“On Memorial Day to the victims of Israel’s wars, the sanctity of the place obliges us to leave political differences aside and act with dignity and sensitivity,” he wrote.

It was not immediately clear if the parents had also appealed to the Defense Ministry.

Illustrative: People and soldiers visit graves during a Memorial Day which commemorates fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terror at Nahalat Yitzhak military cemetery in Tel Aviv on May 4, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The specific call to bar Ben Gvir comes after a general call was issued last month by thousands of bereaved military families for ministers to stay away from ceremonies on Memorial Day amid concerns the events could be exploited for political purposes.

Eli Ben-Shem, chairman of Yad Labanim, the largest bereaved family organization in Israel, told Walla that they had received over 8,500 requests that politicians stay away from the ceremonies, citing concerns over speeches and potential protests for and against the judicial overhaul.

“We are going to deliver this message at the meetings expected at the beginning of next week to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Miri Regev, chair of the ceremonies committee, and they will make the decision,” Ben-Shem said.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant arrives at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on March 27, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Memorial Day, set to begin the evening of April 24, sees large swaths of the Israeli public visiting the graves of loved ones who have been killed in army service or terror attacks.

Many of the ceremonies at cemeteries around the country feature speeches by ministers — if the call from the families were to be heeded, it would be the first time that they would be barred from speaking at the events.

A petition started by opposition MK Chili Tropper (National Unity party), reportedly signed by 90 lawmakers from both the government and opposition, has called for Memorial Day to be left outside of politics.

Dozens of members of bereaved military families have joined nationwide protests against the government’s controversial judicial overhaul.

Gavriella Zimmerman, whose son Amir was killed in 2004, said that she felt she had no choice other than to protest.

“As a bereaved mother it’s hard to wave the flag, but I feel like I am on the edge of the abyss — one small push and we will fall in and won’t come back again,” she told Walla.

“This is not what Amir died for, a ruined country,” she said.

Bereaved families protest against the government’s judicial overhaul, outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, March 23, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Protests against the government’s plans to shackle the country’s judiciary have entered their 14th week, with demonstrations continuing amid a violent terror wave, and even after the coalition paused the legislation late last month to allow dialogue on its highly divisive efforts.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition’s judicial overhaul proposals aim to weaken the court’s ability to serve as a check on parliament, as well as give the government almost absolute control over the appointment of judges.

Critics say the plans will politicize the court, remove key checks on governmental power and cause grievous harm to Israel’s democratic character. Proponents of the measures say they will rein in a judiciary that they argue has overstepped its bounds.

The attorney general has warned that the coalition’s current package of legislation would hand the government virtually unrestrained power, without providing any institutional protections for individual rights.

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