The Times of Israel liveblogged developments on Wednesday as they unfold.
PM recalls telling parents of brother’s death
Speaking at the official Memorial Day ceremony on Mount Herzl, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalls telling his parents that his brother Yoni Netanyahu had been killed during the 1976 raid at Entebbe.
“That terrible knock on the door by the bearers of bad news, I got as an Israeli student in Boston, by way of a telephone call from my brother, Ido, who told me about Yoni’s death — our older brother. This was the worst moment in my life, except for one — when I became the one to tell my father and mother. I was the one who knocked on my parents’ door in New York,” he says.
“Through the large window peering into the house, I saw my father pacing to and fro, lost in thought, his hands behind his back in his typical fashion. Suddenly he averted his gaze when he saw me coming up the path. Without saying a word, his expression changed at once, and he let out a bitter cry. I went inside. As long as I live, I will not forget his screams, and the screams of my mother. To receive the knock on the door from my brother, and to knock on my parents’ door — it was as if Yoni had died twice.”
Netanyahu says that for the bereaved, “the wounds don’t ever heal.”
“When I need to decide whether to send our soldiers out to battle, I think about every soldier and every family as if it were my son, as it were my family,” he says.
“We are one family — Jews and our non-Jewish brethren — Druze, Muslims, Bedouins, Christians. We are partners in good times and bad, in suffering and joy.”
Ya’alon pledges to return bodies of MIA soldiers
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon vows to do everything in his power to return the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed in the Gaza summer conflict and whose bodies were not retrieved.
“It is our primary moral obligation, first and foremost to the families and to the IDF soldiers and commanders that are sent on life-threatening missions, and to the people of Israel,” he says.
On Tuesday night, Shaul’s family said it was being kept in the dark on the progress of efforts to return the bodies.
“We have a feeling at the moment that Oron has been forgotten,” his father Herzl told Channel 2 News. “We never forget him. At all the meetings we’ve been to we’ve received the same promises that they’ll bring back Oron, we don’t know when. It keeps repeating itself, the same statements that Oron will come home.”
Lehava cancels protest against Arab journalist
The anti-assimilation Lehava organization cancels a protest against Arab-Israel journalist Lucy Aharish, originally set for Wednesday night, as Aharish is honored at the annual Independence Day ceremony.
The group calls off the protest due to police restrictions, Channel 2 reports.
“Due to the police’s silencing, which was designed to stifle a legitimate protest, we decided to cancel the protest across from the ceremony,” it says in a statement.
Mother of slain teen ‘hopes for better future’
Bat-Galim Shaar, the mother of Gil-ad Shaar, who was kidnapped and murdered last June near Hebron, addresses the Mount Herzl ceremony.
“We all stand here today with a sense of shared destiny, of loss, trying to deal day by day, hour by hour, with an impossible reality. With that, it’s not just a shared destiny of many years, but a shared goal, hope for a better future, faith in the Jewish people, that it has a role in the world,” she says.
“Dear God, see how much goodness there is in this world. The goodness that you gave man, who was created in your image, will overpower evil. Our dear ones who are no longer with us believed in man and the goodness of his heart, and tried to increase love and kindness in your world. Those that rose up against us harmed our bodies, but their souls, and the souls of the Jewish people, will continue on forever. Together we will face the challenges here as a nation.”
Livni says she won’t let outsiders judge IDF
On Memorial Day, Tzipi Livni says Israel is “misunderstood” and pledges she won’t let people outside of Israel claim the IDF is not a moral army.
“The State of Israel is misunderstood in the world. To those who put a question mark over Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, to them we say there is nothing more just than the values in the name of which the fallen fought, equipped with a moral fiber that cannot be questioned. This is an ongoing struggle for the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, and in this struggle of wars and terror, citizens paid with their lives — children were hurt from terror, and intrepid soldiers went out to defend its citizens,” she writes in a statement.
“We will not let outsiders judge the IDF through a distorted lens, because the IDF is a moral army and we won’t let anyone claim otherwise.”
European terror victims’ families attend ceremony
The families of two of the victims of the Hyper Cacher attack, and the parents of slain security guard Dan Uzan in Copenhagen, attend a Memorial Day ceremony in Jerusalem for the terror victims killed outside Israel’s borders.
“My husband Phillipe was taken from me and from our children in the terrorist attack at Hyper Cacher in France. He was murdered for one reason: because he is a Jew. The great hatred for the Jewish people entered my home and destroyed my family. It also touches every home and family in the Jewish people. Today we all feel the same pain,” Valerie Braham says at the event, organized by the Jewish Agency.
Sergeot (Mordekhai) Uzan says his son “was a firm believer in the moral imperative to be free of prejudice.”
“His message was to dare to be good. My hope is that the democratic world will unite toward this lofty goal, and by doing so will be able to live in peace,” Uzan says.
Laurence Saada, the widow of Francois-Michel Saada, also attended the event with their daughter Emilie, and his brother Serge.
“We have discovered that the battlefield is not on the borders of Israel, but in every Israeli city, and we furthermore discovered, once again, that the battlefield is not only on Israeli soil, but in every Jewish school and synagogue, and even in kosher supermarkets around the world,” Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky says at the event. “What protects us in Israel is conventional weapons: the power of the Israeli army. In the Diaspora, what protects us is an unconventional weapon: the solidarity of the Jewish people.”
Rivlin struggles to reconcile Jewish link to Israel with need for peace
ToI’s David Horovitz interviews President Reuven Rivlin, who openly admitted that his contention that the entire land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people and his firm belief in a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are at odds.
Horovitz writes: “We thought Rivlin a hardline Likud MK who opposed Palestinian statehood; turns out he’s a feisty democrat full of empathy for Israel’s marginalized Arab community, torn between his connection to the Land of Israel and his recognition of the imperative for Jews and Muslims to find a way to live together in peace.”
Stats of fallen soldiers in 2014
The army provides a breakdown to The Times of Israel of its 100 fallen soldiers over the past year.
The majority, 67, fell during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza during the summer. Two others were killed in a Hezbollah ambush near the northern border and one more in a terror attack in Tel Aviv.
Seven were killed in car accidents – either on base or on leave – two more in what the army termed “other accidents,” perhaps referring to training, and one more soldier in an “operational accident.”
Finally, 14 soldiers died in what the army refers to as “suspicion of suicide” and six more from disease and sickness.
An additional 16 people, also remembered on this day, were either members of the Israel Police and other branches of armed services or were slain in terror attacks, the army says.
— Mitch Ginsburg
Bank robbed right after siren
A bank in Haifa was robbed of thousands of shekels moments after the memorial siren went off at 11 a.m. bringing the country to a standstill, Army Radio reports.
Police were searching the area for the culprit.
NY court allows ‘Hamas Killing Jews’ ads
A pro-Israel advocacy group known for publicly criticizing Islam can display its political advertisement containing the phrase “Hamas Killing Jews” on New York City’s buses, a judge says.
Judge John Koeltl says in a decision made public Tuesday that the advertisement is protected speech.
He says he is sensitive to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s claim that the ad could incite violence and understands the efforts necessary to prevent violent attacks.
But he notes that substantially the same advertisement ran in San Francisco and Chicago in 2013 without incident. He adds that examples of violent attacks cited by the MTA show that individuals may commit heinous acts without warning.
Koeltl stays the effect of the ruling, dated Monday, for a month so it can be appealed.
MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg says the agency is disappointed in the ruling and is reviewing its options.
It comes in a lawsuit filed last year by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an organization headed by blogger Pamela Geller that’s behind the advertisement.
Father of terror victim urges more building
A week after his son was killed in a Jerusalem car-ramming attack, Rabbi Uri Sherki urges Israel to “strengthen our hold over the land” and increase construction in response to terror attacks.
“With every strike against us we need to build more, to reduce their [the Palestinians’] national aspirations,” he says, according to Hebrew media reports. “Strengthening our hold over the land is the right answer, and I will demand this of the prime minister.”
Shalom Sherki, 25, was killed last week in a terror attack in the capital.
Ukraine sends largest number of new immigrants
Ahead of Independence Day, the Ministry of Immigration and Immigrant Absorption records nearly 28,000 new immigrants since last year — the largest number of whom hail from war-torn Ukraine.
Some 27,933 new immigrants will celebrate their first Independence Day as citizens on Thursday, the ministry says in a statement. Of those, 6,996 are from Ukraine, 6,377 are from France, 5,040 from Russia, and 3,208 are from the US.
Students outraged over Dylan song at memorial
Some students at Oranim Academic College are infuriated after a student leader reads the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” — an anti-war anthem — during the memorial day ceremony.
The lyrics to the song conclude: “And I hope that you die/And your death’ll come soon/I will follow your casket/In the pale afternoon/
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered/Down to your deathbed/And I’ll stand over your grave/Til I’m sure that you’re dead.”
Some students interpreted the gesture as disrespectful to the memories of the fallen soldiers and took to the college’s Facebook page to voice their outrage.
The student union apologizes to those hurt by the move, but defends the decision saying, “The song is a cry against all wars, and is not designed or intended to trample on the feelings of anyone. We believe it’s important to reiterate that to the best of our knowledge, no group in Israeli society has a total and exclusive monopoly on the pain and the memory of the fallen, and that there is more than one way to commemorate.”
Seriously hurt Har Nof terror victim returns to synagogue
Rabbi Eitan Mualmi, who was critically injured in the massacre at a Har Nof synagogue in November, returns to the synagogue for the first time on Memorial Day, the ultra-Orthodox Kikar HaShabat website reports.
Mualmi suffered from head and arm wounds in the attack, in which four worshippers were killed. According to the report, Mualmi arrived at the site of the attack “walking, in full health, to the great joy of his relatives and the worshippers.”
Jewish groups concerned over Palestinian gathering in Berlin
A major gathering of Palestinians in Europe, set for this weekend in Berlin, draws the concern of Jewish and other pro-Israel groups over alleged ties of the event to Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.
Several groups are planning to protest on April 25 outside the Arena Berlin, where the 13th Conference of Palestinians in Europe is to be held. More than 3,000 people are expected at the pro-Palestinian event, which is co-organized by the Palestinian Community of Germany and the British-based Palestinian Return Center.
Fearing a resurgence of the hate speech and violence that marked last summer’s anti-Israel protests in Germany, a coalition of groups under the name “Berlin Against Hamas” plan a protest rally on Saturday morning near the venue.
Politicians from all parties represented in the Berlin legislature have added their support, the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee says in a statement.
“If political and legal means are not enough to stop this kind of event, then it’s time for the democratic civil society to show their true colors,” Deidre Berger, director of AJC in Berlin, says in the statement accompanying the protest call.
Sebastian Mohr, spokesperson for the “Berlin Against Hamas” initiative, applauds the readiness of politicians and NGOs to take a stand “against the hate of the terrorist Islamist group Hamas.”
Obama urges Iran to help, not hinder, in Yemen
US President Barack Obama calls on Iran help find a political solution in crisis-torn Yemen, accusing the Islamic republic of contributing to the conflict there.
In an interview with MSNBC late Tuesday, Obama notes the suffering caused by the conflict and expresses hope “that we can settle down the situation in Yemen.”
“What we need to do is bring all the parties together and find a political arrangement. It is not solved by having another proxy war in Yemen,” he says.
“We’ve indicated to the Iranians that they need to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem,” he says.
The Arab coalition announced a halt to its air campaign on Tuesday, saying the threat to Yemen’s neighbors had been eliminated. But the bombing resumed on Wednesday.
The United States, which has provided logistics and intelligence support to the coalition, has sent an aircraft carrier to monitor the movements of Iranian ships.
“Right now their ships are in international waters,” Obama says.
“There’s a reason why we keep some of our ships in the Persian Gulf region and that is to make sure we maintain freedom of navigation,” he says.
“And what we’ve said to them is if there are weapons delivered to factions within Yemen that could threaten navigation, that’s a problem.”
‘Stay-at-home’ jihadists pose new threat, Dutch warn
While European intelligence focuses on the dangers of Islamist fighters returning from Iraq or Syria, the Netherlands warns of the growing threat from radicalized Muslims who have never left home.
These “stay-at-home” militants are sometimes “frustrated after failing to join the fight” in the Middle East,” the Dutch security service AIVD says in its annual report.
They could also never have had the intention of going to the battlefield but “get radicalized at home by the propaganda of groups such as Islamic State,” which controls swaths of Iraq and Syria, it says.
Around 180 Dutch nationals have traveled to join Islamic State or other Islamist groups, according to the latest figures.
Around 20 have been killed in fighting, and 35 have returned to the Netherlands.
The report said there were “several hundred” jihadists in the Netherlands at the moment, and “thousands” of sympathizers.
Houthi rebels demand cessation of airstrikes
Shiite rebels in Yemen demand a complete end to attacks by a Saudi-led coalition and seek UN-sponsored talks, a day after the coalition declared an end to the first phase of its operations.
“We demand, after a complete end to the aggression against Yemen and the lifting of the blockade, to resume political dialogue… under the sponsorship of the United Nations,” Mohammed Abdulsalam, the spokesman for the Houthi rebels, says in a statement.
Rivlin sends Independence Day message to Diaspora
Israel will forever be indebted to its friends and supporters abroad, Rivlin says in an Independence Day message to Diaspora communities.
“As we look to the year ahead, we are all aware of the difficult challenges that lie before us, both internally and externally,” says Rivlin, who is in his first year as president. “We can overcome these obstacles, as we always have done, together, with mutual respect and understanding.
“Together we can work to ensure that Israel fulfills its promise of a Jewish and democratic country, with equality and freedoms for all its citizens. This is my hope, my prayer, and my mission, and I know it is yours, too.”
In the message, Rivlin calls Israeli independence “the accomplishment of a 2,000-year-old dream.”
He also releases a video on YouTube offering greetings from Israel to “friends in Israel and around the world.”
Israel Independence Day begins Wednesday at sundown with a ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
IS ‘virus’ working to destroy Muslim world, Erdogan says
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launches one of his strongest attacks yet against Islamic State (IS) jihadists, saying the group was a “virus” working to destroy the Muslim community.
The IS group “is an important virus that is working to divide and destroy the ummah,” Erdogan tells reporters in televised comments, using the term for the global community of Muslims.
He says other groups had followed the same path but that IS had proved more adept at using its resources.
“An international strategy is essential to drain this swamp. Even if Daesh is destroyed something will emerge under a different name,” says Erdogan, using another term used to refer to IS.
“Where do its weapons and financing come from? We need to focus on this,” Erdogan says.
After mourning, Israel set to transition to Independence Day
Israel’s Memorial Day is coming to a close.
At 7:45 p.m. the ceremony marking the transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day will begin at Jerusalem’s Mt. Herzl military cemetery.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin will attend.
At the ceremony, 12 Israelis, honored for their contributions to the state, will light torches.
The torch lighters include Rami Levy, the philanthropic owner of a chain of discount supermarkets; Ehud Shabtai, the creator of the Waze navigation app; Dr. Danny Gold, creator of the Iron Dome anti-missile system; Israeli Arab journalist Lucy Aharish; and Gal Lusky, the founder and CEO of Israel Flying Aid, which provides emergency disaster relief around the world.
— JTA contributed
Who are the president, prime minister’s heroes?
Ahead of Independence Day, the prime minister, president, defense minister and IDF chief of staff all chose to invite one person — a hero of Israel — to the annual festivities at the president’s residence.
According to the Ynet news website, Rivlin chose to honor ultra-Orthodox filmmaker Rama Burshtein, director of the critically acclaimed “Fill the Void” in 2012.
“Rama in her special way shows us the Haredi world through a real, authentic, and heartwarming lens. In her work, she serves as a voice for the mute Haredi public that secular Israeli society doesn’t know, while recognizing the commonalities between the secular and Haredi,” a spokesman for the president says.
Netanyahu chose Miriam Peretz, the mother of two fallen soldiers.
Peretz “chose to continue on in life, she meets with soldiers, teenagers and bereaved families, and conveys messages of hope and faith in mankind to blossom from moments of crisis. She is a symbol of sacrifice and dedication, and works day and night on advocacy for the state of Israel,” the statement says.
Ya’alon’s choice is Munir Suad, a former paratrooper who lost his legs from a roadside bomb in southern Lebanon in the 1980s. Suad served in the IDF under Ya’alon’s command and later worked to establish a memorial site for four fallen soldiers.
Gadi Eizenkot’s selection is Oren Blitzblau, a former soldier who was badly injured during an operation in Gaza a decade ago, and went on to be an award-winning athlete after losing his eyesight.
Torch lighting ceremony begins
The torch lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl kicks off.
Netanyahu wishes Israel a happy Independence Day
In a televised message, Netanyahu says without the IDF soldiers who fell and those wounded, “we would not be here.”
The prime minister thanks the IDF soldiers. He says that when you look around, you see how unique Israel is in the region — “a vibrant democracy.”
He also thanks the torch lighters. “You are all groundbreaking, and the citizens of Israel appreciate that,” he says.
The prime minister wishes everyone a happy Independence Day, and says the 67th anniversary of the state of Israel inspires “great pride.”
Edelstein says next Knesset to focus on economic issues
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein addresses the crowd at Mount Herzl.
He says the location at the military cemetery reflects “price of blood we didn’t stop for a moment from paying.”
The Speaker praises the strength of the Israeli home front during the summer war, but says that this year more people have been questioning whether life in Israel is too hard to bear.
“There is no room for this kind of discourse,” he says.
Edelstein says that economic issues are important, and will be addressed in the upcoming Knesset, but asks — since when has living in Israel been a matter of checks and balances?
He says the election brought to light fractures in Israeli society. During the election, it was “us or them,” he says.
We must leave here saying, “It’s us, all of us,” he says. “In my eyes, everyone is equal,” he says.
The Knesset speaker urges Israelis to get rid of its prejudices.
He lights the first torch.
Lucy Aharish, Danny Gold light torches
Arab Israeli journalist Lucy Aharish lights a torch.
A visibly emotional Aharish speaks of a better future, and dedicates her lighting to her family, to IDF soldiers, and victims of terror who died due to “baseless hate.”
She speaks briefly in Arabic.
Danny Gold, the inventor of the Iron Dome, lights the next torch.
He dedicates it to his Holocaust survivor parents, to the soldiers, the IDF, Shin Bet, and police and Rafael Industries.
He says the home front standing bravely as rockets fall “are the Iron Dome of Israel.”
Torch lighting ceremony continues
Rafi Mehudar, who developed an irrigation system, lights a torch.
Alice Miller, who appealed the High Court after denied entry to the Air Force and paved the way for female pilots, lights the next torch. She dedicates it to the “woman who heal society” with their wisdom.
Dr. Gavriel Iddan is honored next for his electro-optical innovations in medical technology. Then Dr. Marta Weinstock-Rosin for her contributions to developing drugs to slow dementia caused by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Rami Levy lights the next torch
Supermarket chain owner Rami Levy takes the stage next.
“I was a dyslexic kid who was not diagnosed,” he says. “I was taught that the sky is the limit.”
He says he started in a stall in the Mahane Yehuda market, and now has 2 million customers.
Educator, Mossad researcher up next
Jewish educator Malka Puterkovsky lights a next torch. She dedicates it to her family, and to religious women studying Jewish texts.
Mossad researcher Sima Shine, formerly of military intelligence, is up next.
Humanitarian aid leader, Waze developer honored
Gal Lusky, head of Israel Flying Aid, which airlifts Israeli teams to deal with humanitarian crises around the world, lights the next torch. She says that when it comes to international intervention, “silence kills,” and dedicates her source of inspiration to Holocaust survivors.
Waze developer Ehud Shabtai says “the journey is what is really important, and not really the result.” He lights a next torch.
Or Asoulin, a 17-year-old scientist, and CEO of her own company dedicates her torch lighting to the teenagers, and residents of the periphery towns.
Singer, soldier honored
Avihu Medina, a singer-songwriter, is honored for his contributions to the Israeli music scene. He lights a torch.
Cpl. Dan Korkovsky, a soldier who is on the autism spectrum and works in military intelligence, lights the next torch.
The torch-lighting ceremony concludes.
At ceremony, all rise for anthem
After several dance and music performances, all rise at the Mount Herzl ceremony to sing Hatikva, the national anthem.
200 Israelis still unaccounted for
The Foreign Ministry says 200 Israelis in Nepal have not yet made contact, adding that the majority of the backpackers are not thought to be in danger.
A number of Israelis sustained light injuries from the earthquake, it says.
The first Israeli aid plane lands in Kathmandu, and a Magen David Adom plane is expected in four hours.
Some 20 Israeli volunteers, from the ZAKA International Rescue Unit, United Hatzalah, and search and rescue specialists from F.I.R.S.T. will depart Israel later this afternoon.
An advance team took off from Israel just after midnight to assess needs. A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says the advance team “will land near the affected zone and make its preparations until it becomes possible to land in Nepal.”
The second flight was planned to include a team of 240 soldiers from the Home Front Command, who plan on working for at least the next two weeks in aiding rescue and recovery efforts for locals and Israelis there, according to Ynet news.
Besides offering aid to Nepal, the delegation will also provide Israelis “the means necessary to return to Israel,” the statement adds.
Separate flights of other aid organizations were also planned from Israel.
Nepal death toll climbs to 2,152
An official in Nepal says at least 2,152 people are now confirmed dead in the massive earthquake that hit just outside of Kathmandu.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Komal Singh Bam gives no further details Sunday.
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