Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heckled Wednesday by a bereaved father during a ceremony as part of Israel’s national Memorial Day honoring the 4,176 people who were killed in acts of terror.
Speaking at the official state ceremony held at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said once a new government is formed, one of the first items on its agenda will be approving a national commemoration hall for victims of terror.
“We are making great progress in the planning process of the special memorial hall. This will be one of the first decisions to be approved by the next government,” Netanyahu said.
Interrupting the prime minister, one person in attendance, the husband of a terror victim, called out: “No politics! Shame on you! Where were you for 40 years?”
People around the man, Aziz Tzerafi, whose wife Miriam was killed in a 1989 terrorist attack, asked him to stop heckling the premier. The monument to the 16 victims of the attack, on a 405 bus to Jerusalem, was stolen four years ago, and Tzerafi said later that he was protesting the ongoing failure to handle the matter.
Netanyahu is currently attempting to form a government following the inconclusive results of the March 23 vote, the fourth election held in two years.
The ceremony for terror victims came after Netanyahu’s central address at an earlier memorial for fallen soldiers.
“Together we stand, united and hurting, alongside all of Israel’s citizens,” said Netanyahu. “We have raised excellent sons and daughters, who for 73 years have been risking their lives to protect Israel’s independence. Seventy-three years of grief, 73 years of revival.”
“Each one of us remembers the moment when they received the news about their fallen loved ones,” added the premier, who lost his brother Yoni in Operation Entebbe in 1976. “When my brother died, I didn’t know whether and how I would get back on my feet. I felt like someone who lost an organ — a hand, a leg, a heart.”
Appearing to hint at recent tensions with Iran and the series of attacks on Tehran’s nuclear facilities and ships that have been blamed on Israel, Netanyahu added: “We should never remain complacent in the face of threats of war and annihilation by those who seek our demise.”
Israel’s Memorial Day is marked annually with candle-lighting ceremonies, melancholy music on the radio, and newspaper features and TV programs about those who died.
This year sees a return of Israelis visiting the country’s 52 military cemeteries and hundreds of smaller military sections in civilian cemeteries nationwide after they were closed during last year’s commemorations due to coronavirus restrictions.
In a stark reminder of the toll of Israel’s wars, a former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder set himself on fire on Monday outside the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation center, setting off a national reckoning.
Itzik Saidyan, 26, remains in critical condition.
About a hundred demonstrators came to hear the Memorial Day siren at the exact spot where Saidyan set himself alight, carrying signs that said: “This is where Itzik Saidyan set himself on fire because he could no longer stand the unreceptiveness.”
At 7:45 p.m. Wednesday evening, Memorial Day will end with the national torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl that will usher in Israel’s 73th Independence Day.