Bereaved families urge leaders to sign pledge to keep politics out of Memorial Day ceremonies

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Supporters of far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir scuffle with a bereaved man (C) at the military cemetery in Beersheba on April 25, 2023, amid commemorations of Memorial Day for fallen soldiers. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)
Supporters of far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir scuffle with a bereaved man (C) at the military cemetery in Beersheba on April 25, 2023, amid commemorations of Memorial Day for fallen soldiers. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

An organization representing bereaved families is calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other national leaders to sign a public letter calling to “preserve the sanctity of Memorial Day.”

The appeal — addressed to the prime minister, war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid — comes in response to concerns over the politicization of the annual day of mourning, in light of the political climate and following the demonstrations seen at last year’s memorial ceremonies.

Several ministers were greeted with protests and disruptions during Memorial Day ceremonies across the country in 2023, including clashes between the families of fallen soldiers at a ceremony attended by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at a military cemetery in Beersheba.

“The last few months are some of the most difficult that the State of Israel has known since its establishment, 76 years ago,” the letter, written by Yad Labanim chairman Eli Ben-Shem, explains.

“Many families have joined the circle of bereavement and this is their first Memorial Day. God forbid we add to the pain during these difficult days.”

“For their sake, so that we may be worthy of their heroism, their sacrifice and their memory, we call on you to leave the disputes outside the military cemeteries and avoid arguments over the graves of the girls and boys.”

So far, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid has responded by signing.

Some politicians and family members of victims of the October 7 Hamas massacre have asked government ministers and lawmakers to refrain from speaking at the various ceremonies on May 12-13, citing concerns that the day will be tainted by the presence of divisive politicians, whom many blame for the failures surrounding the unprecedented Hamas terror assault.

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