The Kfir Brigade’s "March of the Living" to the Western Wall

IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson

On Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Day, the Duchifat Battalion of the Kfir Brigade conducted a march in Jerusalem, ending with a ceremony at the Western Wall.

Date: 03/05/2011, 4:17 PM     Author: Tamara Shavit

From the green grass of Sacher Park through the streets of Rehavia, the Duchifat Battalion of the Kfir Brigade conducted a city march through Jerusalem on Monday (May 2) that ended at the Western Wall. Like on any march, the soldiers wore their field uniforms and full vests. But the atmosphere was different as Monday was Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Day.

The soldiers walked, talked, some sang and some laughed. The battalion, in all its glory, made noise. But that was exactly the point, they said. In the morning the commanders had gone to a memorial ceremony in Rabin Square. At the end of the march, everyone participated in one at the Western Wall. But in between, along with the sadness, it was also important to remember that the war ended. It was important to remember that we are here.

The route was also not coincidental. Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Raz Sarig said: “The Jewish people arose from the abyss of the Holocaust mortally wounded, but still breathing and having learned a lesson. Never again will the Jews be homeless, without a shield. The Western Wall is evidence to that. For 2,000 years, we aspired to it. When we could, we fought for it. We liberated it. Today, we protect it.”

“I think that this is very beautiful,” said Adi Havkin, a commander in the battalion and the grandson of a Holocaust survivor. ‘Who could have dreamed that such a force could walk in Jerusalem and demonstrate its presence?”

“There were some here who didn’t understand,” said soldier Amit Leon. “They said it is too happy and asked what the connection is between Holocaust Day and a march. The idea is rebirth, To fulfill the dream of people like Mordechai Anielewicz who would have died to walk on the streets of Jerusalem with a weapon in hand.”

The journey began on Sderot Ben Tsvi. A six-lane road filled with hundreds of pairs of military boots. Occasionally, cars honked their horns in sympathy. At crosswalks, drivers saluted here and there. Tourists happily pulled out their iPhones to take pictures.

The soldiers approached the Western Wall as the stars came out, with the Dormition Church on their left, the dense lights of the Arab neighborhood of Abu Tor on their right, and the souvenir shops of the Old City around them. The soldiers filled the Western Wall Plaza before descending to the wall itself in small groups. The echoes of prayers rose and fell in waves. Even the cynics were silent. At the end of the ceremony, “Hatikvah” was sung, without a speaker or an orchestra. Just people singing.

“In front of this wall, 44 years ago, stood the IDF (Zahal) fighters who liberated this city,” said the battalion commander. “Kibbutzniks, moshavniks, urbanites, residents of development towns, the secular and the religious, from east and west, stood as one with tears in their eyes. For everyone, the Western Wall symbolized the same thing.”

Just before he descended to the wall with his soldiers to place a note, I asked him what he wrote, prompting a smile.

“On the national level, that we continue to fulfill our mission,” he said. “On the battalion level, that we continue to do the best that we can. Above all, that we continue our values. And on a personal level, just health. After that, everything else.”

To his troops, the battalion commander said: “Even today, our enemies are not finished. They look for us in Jerusalem, at the Bekaot checkpoint, in Ofra, in Beit El, everywhere that they can. But before them stands a fortified wall. Israel, the IDF (Zahal), and our Duchifat Battalion stand on guard.”