President Reuven Rivlin this evening (Sunday) addressed the opening ceremony for Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel's Wars and Victims of Terrorism, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem where he was joined in kindling the memorial flame by Moriah Ben Ari, widow of Major Hagai Ben Ari, and two of their sons. Also addressing the ceremony was Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot.
In his address, President Rivlin turned to the bereaved families and spoke of his memories of the fallen soldiers throughout the years, and of his visits to the homes of bereaved families since becoming President. He said, "Like an accursed decree of fate I always arrive too late. I always miss meeting them. I see their names inside a black border. I see the pictures, and the videos, and the last ‘selfie’ taken with their little brother, and the last text message to their mother, and my heart breaks. And suddenly their uniforms are too big, and their beret doesn’t fit, and death takes away from the smile. And grandma and grandpa, you, who are sitting there, always on the side, and crying quietly. And you, no longer young, you sit there in silence, and I am silent with you.”
The President went on to stress that the memorial day came as Jerusalem was ready to mark half a century since the liberation of the city, and noted it should be remembered that, "Our liberty is sacred, both sacred and hard. We know that there is a price to be paid for our existence here, for our liberty. There is a price, and we, in awe and terror, are willing to pay that price." The President stressed, "Dear bereaved families, we are living that privilege. You paid the price. The price of our liberty purchased in blood."
The President continued, “The terrible price of our existence is our obligation to care day and by night, to do everything, everything in order to fulfill the task; firstly, to ensure the safety of our citizens, the security of the State of Israel; and secondly, to do all we can to ensure the safety of our soldiers as they carry out their mission."
He went on to speak of the importance of the IDF's high level of preparedness at all times, "We must be more than prepared. More than exceptional. We must constantly examine ourselves; always be standing ready, always be one step ahead; always be engaged, not just in preventing the next war, but in preventing all the coming wars – using every tool and everything at our disposal. For this, the IDF must be completely dedicated to the tasks before it. The IDF is all of us: it defends us, we defend it."
He added, "Our defense and the defense of the IDF – its official national status – is the defense of the most fundamental foundations of our national home. We must always remember: together we fall, and together we stand. In disasters that happen during military training, and on our feeling of relief on hearing the words: ‘All our forces returned safely’.”
The President concluded by turning to the bereaved families, and stressing the importance of the living memory for the continued existence of the People. He said, “This morning we dedicated the ‘National Hall of Remembrance’ in memory of those who fell in Israel’s wars. Our commitment to the future is also our commitment to remembrance; the memory of the boys and girls, our heroes, our loved ones. The true staying power of a nation grows from the living memory of our roots, of our history, and our tradition. The living memory of our heroes. Not only black-bordered pictures on the wall, rather, a living heritage, a torch that lights our way, the story of their life and of their death. We shall remember them all. We shall go forward in their light.”
He stressed, “Nor do we forget the soldiers who did not return from the battle fields. The task of bringing home the missing, and the fallen soldiers whose place of burial is unknown, has not been completed. Our commitment to those boys remains firm. And, together, this evening, we send our prayers for a full recovery to all the injured as they struggle day by day.”
The President concluded, “Dear friends, beloved families. I pray that we shall be able to carry forward this sacred togetherness we feel on this day, to all the days of the year. That we shall remember the price, and those who pay it, that we shall be worthy of it, that we shall be worthy of you.”
Photo credit: Mark Neiman (GPO)