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Interior Minister Shaked told: 'You should be ashamed'

‘Traitor’: Bennett heckled by several bereaved relatives at Memorial Day event

PM called a ‘swindler,’ told to shut up, during lengthy disturbance at ceremony for terror victims; he says, ‘Beloved families, I hear your pain’; other families deplore disruption

  • Herzl Hajaj heckles Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as he addresses the Mount Herzl Memorial Day ceremony for terror victims on May 4, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    Herzl Hajaj heckles Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as he addresses the Mount Herzl Memorial Day ceremony for terror victims on May 4, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett waits for heckling to stop during a state memorial ceremony for victims of terror, at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, May 4, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett waits for heckling to stop during a state memorial ceremony for victims of terror, at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, May 4, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked were both heckled Wednesday while speaking at Memorial Day events.

As Bennett spoke during a memorial service at Mount Herzl national cemetery commemorating the over 4,000 Israelis killed in terror attacks, members of the audience called the premier a “traitor,” “swindler” and a “rag.”

“Shut your mouth,” one person could be heard shouting.

Bennett stood silently at the podium for several minutes amid the shouting, before resuming his speech.

“The bereaved families are sacred. They can shout and they can grieve,” he said.

“Beloved families, I love you dearly,” he added. “I hear your pain.”

The heckling lasted for more than five minutes before Bennett began his speech, and he was interrupted several times once he had started, Channel 12 news reported.

Lee Abramovitz, who hosted the ceremony, said that six to 10 members of the audience participated in the heckling.

Abie Moses, the head of the national organization for terror victims, spoke after Bennett and apologized to the prime minister for the heckling. A person could be heard shouting “we’re not sorry” in response.

After the ceremony, others in the audience said they deplored the heckling. “I’ve been coming here for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. Shameful,” said one elderly man.

“The prime minister said that we have differing opinions, and that is fine and legitimate,” added another woman, in interviews with Channel 12 news. “But to disturb is disrespectful in my opinion.”

“I’m appalled that people would abuse a day like today to make political arguments,” said another man.

One of the hecklers was Herzl Hajaj, whose daughter Shir was one of four soldiers killed by a terrorist in a 2017 ramming attack in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett waits for heckling to stop during a state memorial ceremony for victims of terror, at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, May 4, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Hours earlier, his wife held up a sign protesting the government as Bennett spoke during another event at Mount Herzl honoring fallen troops. The couple has previously engaged in numerous acts of protest against the current government.

“Bennett, someone who formed a government with terror supporters is not welcome here,” the sign held up by Merav Hajaj read.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, relatives of Lt. Col. Emmanuel Moreno — a special forces commando and former comrade of Bennett’s who was killed in the 2006 Second Lebanon War — asked Hajaj to leave.

Right-wing government critics have regularly criticized the coalition’s inclusion of Ra’am, an Islamist faction they denounce as “terror supporters.” The leader of Ra’am has repeatedly denounced terror and also held talks with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu before joining the current coalition.

Shaked, the No. 2 in Bennett’s Yamina party, was interrupted while addressing a memorial ceremony in Petah Tikva.

“Go home. Disgusting. You should be ashamed,” a man could be heard shouting.

The event was briefly paused as the heckler was removed, with Shaked appearing to take the interruption in stride.

“It’s okay. Bereaved families are sacred. They are allowed to express their pain,” she said in a response similar to Bennett’s.

The heckler was identified as Arik Hanan, whose brother was killed in 1985 while fighting in Lebanon.

“It came out in the heat of the moment,” Hanan told the Haaretz daily, calling the government’s reliance on Ra’am “inconceivable.”

“There were people who told me to be quiet, but I think it was the right thing,” he said. “If this isn’t the time or place, then when?”

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked holds a press conference at Ben Gurion Airport on March 13, 2022. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

Such interruptions have become relatively common in recent years, including when members of previous governments spoke at Memorial Day ceremonies. However, the heckling of Bennett was particularly protracted.

“The bereaved relatives deserve this [memorial day] and it is our duty to embrace them in any way they choose and to also lovingly accept their criticism, because it is they who paid the price of our rebirth and existence,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said at a Memorial Day event on Wednesday.

He appeared to be referring to a call by dozens of bereaved families for cabinet ministers not to attend Memorial Day ceremonies, as they accused the government of being sustained by “terror supporters” due to the coalition’s inclusion of Ra’am.

In Memorial Day remarks to the Shin Bet, the security agency’s chief, Ronen Bar, appeared to take a shot at one such critic of the government’s response to terror.

Last month, far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir issued a statement railing against Bar, accusing him of being responsible for a series of “failures” that led to a string of terror attacks and tensions in Jerusalem and Gaza.

“Our power has always been in our unity. Precisely on this day when we all gather together, we must remember the danger of divisions, violent discourse and incitement that can lead us to a dangerous abyss,” Bar said.

“The members of this organization will not speak or tweet. They will be a shield and will not be seen,” he added in an apparent swipe at Ben Gvir.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz looks at the names of fallen soldiers in the hall of remembrance at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, during a Memorial Day ceremony on May 4, 2022. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)

At 11 a.m., sirens sounded nationwide, bringing the country to a standstill for two minutes of silence in memory of the 24,068 fallen servicemembers and thousands more terror victims killed in Israel and its pre-state precursor over the last century and a half.

Fifty-six soldiers died during their military service since Israel’s last Memorial Day. Another 84 disabled veterans died due to complications from injuries sustained during their service.

Thirty-three names were added to the list of terror victims who perished in attacks in the past year. Another four victims with disabilities died due to complications from serious injuries they sustained in attacks, bringing the total to 3,199 since Israel was established in 1948.

Counting from the “early days of Zionism” in 1851, the total number of terror victims stands at 4,216, according to Israel’s National Insurance Institute.

Memorial Day, established in 1951 by then-prime minister and defense minister David Ben-Gurion, was set for the 4th of Iyar on the Jewish calendar, the day before Independence Day.

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