(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
Following is Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s remarks at the official ceremony that was held today (Tuesday), October 7, 2003, at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, in memory of members of the IDF who fell in the Yom Kippur War and the War of Attrition.
Thirty years ago, the fires of war were suddenly lit amidst the sanctity of Yom Kippur. Thirty years have passed since your loved ones hastened directly from their synagogues and homes to the heavy battle, and did not return. Those same thirty years have engraved the moment of a hasty separation and the bundle of precious memories, the truth of war and the shock of the most terrible of all news, in your hearts.
The time that has passed has bound the wounds, but sorrow cannot be healed and the longing has no end. The photo is on the wall, and a name is engraved on the headstone in the military cemetery. Life continues thanks to those who fell – and in their absence. The heart cannot forget.
Every war, first of all, belongs to the soldiers and commanders on the field of battle, despite the fact that others, not far to the rear, take the laurels for themselves. The Yom Kippur War belonged to all those warriors. It is they who, with their fighting, with their blood and heroism, contained the harsh surprise and more than a few mistakes, and led to victory.
The State of Israel emerged changed from that war – hurting, sobered and humbled. Yom Kippur itself will not be what it was before that Yom Kippur. It has since been marked by the sorrowful memories of the fallen, the cries of the wounded and the cacophony and turmoil of war that violated the tranquility of the holy day.
I still carry with me the image of the courageous fighters from the battles to blunt the enemy’s drive, and of the heroes who successfully changed the face of the war; O still remember the look of the dead and the smell of the burnt equipment, the blood and the smoke; I still hear the soldiers in the bunkers who cried out for aid – and many received none.
If there is a national lesson, it is not just in berating ourselves for being haughty. The lesson is that in security, we cannot rely on shrewd assessments or deterrent ability alone, or even on agreements. In matters regarding our security, Israel’s strength must be ready and able at all times; we must constantly foster and develop this strength’s qualitative advantage, in fighting spirit and equipment alike, as if the next war was around the corner. We are not immune from surprises. Only if we are constantly prepared, will we achieve peace, and we will achieve it.
Today, we also remember the many soldiers who fell during the long and anonymous War of Attrition, in which the faces of young soldiers stared at us day after day in the newspapers. There, far away, in the bunkers, in pursuit of terrorists in the Jordan Valley, during battles in the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley, clearing terrorist nests in alleyways in Gaza and Rafiah, in special operations deep into enemy territory, in land, air and naval battles, far from where anyone could see, this tenacious war took place, with much spilling of blood, and bravery. The soldiers, mostly in compulsory service, but also many volunteers, those same tigers’ who came to aid us, thwarted the enemy’s strategy to weaken Israel and force us to withdraw. The War of Attrition was pushed aside, overshadowed and eclipsed, between the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. This year we have redeemed the honor of its fighters. They also deserve recognition.
You, the bereaved families, know better than anyone else the heavy price of war, those of you who were there in the fields of death, those of you who commanded the fighters in battle and who lost best friends and subordinates – also know the curse of war and will despise it to the end of your days.
The Hebrew month of Tishrei is a month of introspection, and the shadow of those wars has lasted more than three decades. The battle continues. This generation of fighters carries in it the courage and abilities of those before them, of their parents, of those who fought in Sinai and the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the Jordan Valley, in the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur war. This generation is leading Israel’s necessary battle against the terror organizations, whose murderous desires were demonstrated to us on Saturday. Israel will not recoil from defending its citizens and will strike its enemies in every place and with any means. At the same time, we will not miss an opening or an opportunity to reach an agreement with our neighbors for the peace we long for so much.
Only with this combination will it be possible for this generation, to see with its eyes the end of war and enter the gates of peace.
May the memory of those who fell in Israel’s wars be bound in the chain of life.