Address by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the State Remembrance Day ceremony for the fallen in Israel’s campaigns
Jerusalem, 16 April 2002

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke today (Tuesday), April 16, 2002, at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, at the State Remembrance Day ceremony for the fallen in Israel’s campaigns. Following is the text of his address:

President of the State of Israel,
Bereaved Families,
Honored Guests,

On my way here I passed the graves of many friends, members of the moshav on which I was born, studied and grew up. There is not a single cemetery section on this mountain that does not hold acquaintances, friends, commanders, and subordinates of mine. Buried with them on this mountain are the memories of my childhood, my youth, all the campaigns of Israel in which I partook, the joy of victory and the pain and deep sorrow of failure, which always returns and hits me over the loss of friends, the talent and dreams that have disappeared.

This lofty mountain that looks out over our eternal capital, Jerusalem, holds our heroes buried in its soil. Here, and in all the military cemeteries across the country, and the depths of the sea, far away and in places that are unknown, their final resting place.

Today the whole nation commemorates together, one great bereaved family, the memory of its sons and daughters who have fallen in Israel’s campaigns. At the end of the day, our flags will be raised again to full mast, and the miracle of our independence will be celebrated. But we will know and will remember the cost, and we will cherish the freedom bought for us with the blood of the fallen, the heavy grief of the bereaved families and the pain of the wounded and the disabled who bear the scars of war on their bodies.

The parachutist Hannah Senesh, who parachuted into the heart of the Nazi inferno in occupied Europe in order to save her brethren from the flames, wrote in such beautiful poetic simplicity:

"A voice called.
I went.
I went, for it called.
I went, lest I fall."

This clear and pure internal voice is a call from the heart. A call for the mission to resurrect a nation. A call to protect the home, to build a defensive shield against enemy and distress. This is a call from the heart that motivates fighters to volunteer, to serve, to charge in to the fire, to sacrifice oneself in order to defend and protect the State of Israel. This call is the basis of our national existence and can not be undermined. Without it we would not have had a resurrection and existence against those who rose up against us. It is the eternal flame of the bravery of Israel that can stand up to any storm from without and any errant winds from within, and never be extinguished.

Ordinary people who left their homes, their jobs, their children. Ordinary people, who are leading the campaign to protect their homes to fight terror, even now on alert, on guard, ordinary people, commanders and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces in the regular army and reserves, officers of the Israeli Police and Border Police, members of the Israel Security Agency and the Mossad, Magen David Adom medics, doctors and nurses in the hospitals, firefighters, civil guard and victim identification volunteers, all volunteers. Regular people, from the country and from the city, wearers of kippot and members of Kibbutzim, Jews, Druze, Beduin, Circassians, new immigrants and native born, regular people who are the strong and heart touching proof for all those who have forgotten how great this nation is, how mighty we are. Regular people, but so special.

Today, together with them, we will call a halt to the routine turmoil in deference to the remembrance, and listen to the quiet, turn an ear towards the silence. And the memories of our fallen comrades will be clear and clean of any arguments and disputes, virtuous and holy as the honor of their sacrifice. We will commemorate, we will remember and we will promise to keep a good, united, strong and righteous State of Israel, and we will commit to doing everything in order to drive out war from our country and to implant security and peace.

The fallen of Israel’s campaigns will be sealed in our hearts forever. Their memories and their sacrifices will be an example to us of the spirit of courage and faith in the eternity of Israel.