The official governmental ceremony for the commemoration of fallen soldiers and terror victims was held on Monday, May 5th at Jerusalem’s Har Herzl military cemetery.
Before the speeches began, Kaddish, a prayer for the deceased, was recited by Shlomo Malka, the father of Tali Hatuel, who was killed with her four daughters, the oldest of which (Esther) was 10 at the time of her murder.
Kel Male Rahamim, a prayer for Jewish martyrs, was then sung by Rabbi Shai Abramson, the Chief Cantor of the IDF, followed by the IDF band’s rendition of Idan Raichel’s Mikol Ha’ahavot.
As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took the podium to address the audience, roughly a dozen bereaved parents staged a highly unusual protest, standing up and leaving while holding up red flags. The demonstration came in response to Netanyahu’s release of 78 terrorists as a “gesture” during the peace talks.
One bereaved father shouted out over the release of the terrorists, before breaking down in tears.
Several victims of terrorism and their families had urged government officials – including the Prime Minister – who had voted in favor of the terrorist releases, to avoid the commemorations. Bereaved parents Ron Kerman and Yossi Zur drafted a letter to Netanyahu, calling on him not to speak at the ceremony.
“Please save us and other families of the victims of terror from your speech this year [on Memorial Day],” the letter reads. “Please do not come to the ceremony on Har Herzl and please do not speak.”
Defending the release
After waiting for the protest to quiet, Netanyahu remarked “I read your letters and will discuss the matter later in my speech.”
Netanyahu began his talk by mentioning the wave of Arab terrorism towards Jews between 1936 and 1939, when over 600 Jews were estimated to have been killed.
“In the stormy days of 1936, Moshe Beilinson, a doctor and public figure, wrote ‘until when, they ask. …Until the strength of the Jewish people will be enough to oppose all enemies,'” quoted Netanyahu, adding “there is no way to destroy the spirit of the Jewish people in its country.”
The prime minister remarked that now, 80 years later, “the wave of hatred of our enemies who still don’t accept our existence here rises and comes up against the iron wall of the IDF. …Our ongoing war of existence takes from us many victims, the names of many are inscribed on the wall behind me.”
Netanyahu noted that his brother Yoni, who led the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit, said “only if we give all we have for the well-being of our state, Israel will remain the state of the Jewish people.”
Addressing the bereaved families and the feelings of injustice due to the terrorist releases, Netanyahu defended his “difficult decision that opposes justice,” citing the “complicated reality in our region.”
“Many governments in Israel have made these difficult decisions,” stated Netanyahu. “I knew I would meet you (protesting bereaved families), but I saw it as my responsibility as the prime minister, to come and stand with you on memorial day, for your dear ones, our dear ones.”
Establish a day of memorial for terror victims
Abe Mozes then took the podium. Mozes’s wife Ofra Hy”d was murdered in 1987, when an Arab terrorist threw a molotov cocktail at the family car, setting it in flames.
Aside from Ofra, their young son Tal Hy”d had 90% of his body covered by burns in the incident and died several months later. Abe, their daughter Adi, their son Nir and Nir’s friend who was in the car, were all badly burned but survived the attack.
Muhammed Daud, the Arab terrorist who killed Ofra and Tal and is a resident of Jerusalem’s Kalkilya neighborhood, was released in the third batch of terrorist releases last December by Netanyahu’s government.
Speaking at the memorial, Mozes represented the bereaved families, saying they feel they don’t have a day to represent them and their loves ones who are the victims of terror. Memorial Day is particularly dedicated to fallen IDF soldiers.
“Their only crime was to be Jews in their country,” remarked Mozes, mourning the fact that there is no day to commemorate terror victims. Mozes added that he doesn’t blame Netanyahu or President Shimon Peres for there not being such a memorial day.
However, Mozes addressed Netanyahu, Peres and other officials, saying “we bereaved families call on you to establish a day to commemorate terror victims.”
“This is a moral and ethical requirement, to remember and not forget the victims of the home front,” declared Mozes. He called for such a day to be established to say “the people of Israel remember you (terror victims), the people of Israel lives and exists.”
At the close of the ceremony, representatives from the government, Supreme Court, the IDF, police, and various other institutions, as well as bereaved families, placed wreathes in memory of Israel’s fallen.
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