Dear bereaved families and distinguished guests,
As the week of remembrance, revival and independence begins, we bow our heads and lower our flag in memory of 23,085 soldiers who fell in Israel’s military campaigns. Jews, Druze, Christians, Muslims, Bedouins, Circassians – Israel’s fallen soldiers come from all walks of life in Israeli society. We value the enormous contribution made by the fallen soldiers, and there is no greater equality than standing together at the frontlines, sacrificing their lives so that we may live.
In a few hours, as the siren echoes all over Israel marking a minute of silence, we will gather around memorial candles, we will come together in deep anguish, and in pining for our loved ones, our glorious heroes.
Ever since becoming a nation, we have been forced to fight for our freedom and our existence. Jew-haters in every generation have banished us, persecuted us, slain us and have tried to eradicate the memory of Israel from the face of the earth. Today there are still those who threaten to annihilate us – they did not succeed in the past, and they will never succeed. The Glory of Israel will not lie.
If we are so condemned, then we will raise our swords and go to battle against those who wish to harm us. We do not want war, we are not blood thirsty. Our arm is extended in peace to all peoples and all countries, near and far, but over the ages we have learned that only strong defenses can ensure that we stay safe.
Like you, bereaved families, my family has also paid the price of Israel’s sovereignty. I too have felt the torment of loss and absence, the heart’s cry. My consolation, our consolation, is that our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters have not fallen in vain. It is thanks to them that we are a free people in our own country.
I remember well Rivka Guber who lost both her sons Ephraim and Zvi in the War of Independence. She did not succumb to her grief, and she dedicated her life to immigrant absorption in Israel.
I am in awe of the strength of Miriam Peretz who lost two of her sons, Uriel and Eliraz, who fell in battle in Lebanon and on the border with Gaza. She said that what gave them the strength was their absolute faith in our right to be a free people in our country.
Blessed is the people who has such sons; blessed is the people who has sons with such families.
I look at you, in your eyes, and identify with the vastness of the pain. My father, Professor Ben-Zion Netanyahu, of blessed memory, passed away over a year ago. Decades after my brother Yoni fell, he published his life’s work, a comprehensive study of Spanish Jewry and the Inquisition. On the first page he wrote that he dedicated the book to his son Yonatan who was killed saving his people in Entebbe. He said: “I dedicate the book with unremitting grief.”
The pain does not loosen its grip on us, the family of bereavement. Yet I can see that the wounds inflicted by bereavement have not detracted from your steadfast spirit and soul – and that is the secret of our strength and our might.
The entire nation follows us, follows you, embraces you to their hearts and honors your noble demeanor in the face of incessant anguish. It draws from your mental strength. Today, the entire people and I salute the courage of our finest sons and daughters, who are worthy of glory for all eternity.
By virtue of the love of Israel, our unity, total devotion, faith and sacrifice, Judah shall be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.
May the memory of our fallen loved ones be forever blessed.