President Reuven Rivlin addressed the opening ceremony of Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where he was joined by representatives of the bereaved families in kindling the memorial flame. Also addressing the ceremony was Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot.
“Last year, as I stood in front of you, dear beloved families,” began the President and said, “I prayed that maybe, from that Memorial Day to this one, I will not have to pay any more visits to families whose entire lives have just been shattered around them. I prayed that maybe this year, we will stand here, finally, with no new pain. But this year too, reality knocked at our door. This year, once again, I met talented, funny, kind, boys and girls, filled with loving and promise. Each and every one of them a treasure. And this year too, I got to know them too late - when they were already gone.”
The President stressed, “Today is a day of mourning – both national and personal – each and every one of us has loved ones that are gone.” He continued, “Together, a great nation mourns its fallen; Ami, my neighborhood hero, who was only 16 year-old; Freddie, an ember plucked from the fire on Seder night 1947, he had survived the Holocaust, and yet was killed on the battlefield; Maoz and his son Nir, Eran and his father Dubi, boys who followed the fathers they barely got to know. Hussein Ali, a bride-groom who never made it to his wedding day. Hadar, guardian of the walls of Jerusalem, who died as she protected them, just this year. The list of our fallen goes on and on. None of them had planned for death. None of us bring children into the world with the thought that one day we will bury them in the soil and say the Mourner's Prayer, standing over their open grave. Fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, I stand in front of you and my heart is broken, my heart is torn. Your children, your loved ones, the fruit of your hopes, the subject of your adoration - there is no limit to the sorrow and suffering, there is no answer for the silent call - only the silence of death.”
The President went on to say, “Last year we did not have much time to be together. We each burrowed into our own path of righteousness, and we had disagreements, by their very nature extremely difficult and tough, and speak to the root of our existence here. However, the IDF is not just the army of all of us - the IDF is all of us. It is the secular and the religious, Jewish and non-Jewish, it is Arab, Bedouin, Druze and Circassian. It is those born in Israel and it is immigrants, it is sons of the city, and of the settlements, members of Moshavim and Kibbutzim – it is the length and breadth of the country, left and right. And the map of grief surrounds us all, on a chilling and equal scale. The same pain of longing and the same fate. The pinpoints in the map all mark the same, in the Negev and in Tel Aviv, Kiryat Arba and in Moa'ar, in Sderot, Jerusalem, Yeruham and Shlomi. We must remember that the IDF does set the course. The IDF does its utmost in the highest and most professional manner, to navigate through safely and reach its goals. Our confidence in the IDF and its commanders, and our confidence in its review and control mechanisms – is our confidence in ourselves. It is our confidence in our strength to stand before those who have sacrificed for us – your sacrifices – and in the justness of our cause.”
He added, “For over sixty-eight years we have been fighting the same war, the war for our independence; an ongoing campaign that changes its face and form. It is a painful battle that all the time adds fresh scars to the body and spirit of this ancient and robust people. Inherent in the stones behind me, the stones of the Western Wall, the 'wall of tears and hope', is testament that we are not men of war. We did not go into battle hungry for war, but with the desire for peace, with a lust for life, and a hated of death. But we realize the bitter and horrible truth – that there is a terrible price – which you have paid – to be a nation determined to protect its citizens and its independence. We will stand strong against anyone who dares to put our resolve to the test in any way.”
The President turned to the bereaved families and said, “You, who did not have the chance to finish bestowing love, it is thanks to you that we can love. You, who did not manage to see your children grow up; it is thanks to you that our streets are filled with life, with boys and girls playing. You, who did not manage to fulfil your dreams; it is because of you that we can dream.”
He concluded, “On this occasion we remember, and are reminded, of our commitment to our kidnapped children and those missing in action. We remember and are reminded of our responsibility to bring to Israel for burial, those of our sons whose graves are unknown. May the memory of our sons and daughters, who are loved and cherished, be engraved on our hearts forever.”