JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke at Remembrance Day ceremonies on Monday, comforting and commending the families of the fallen.
Netanyahu spoke at the memorial ceremony on Mount Herzl Military Cemetary, which began after the sounding of the siren, at 11:00 Monday morning. President Shimon Peres, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Chief Justice Dorit Beinish were also in attendance.
Netanyahu opened his speech with a personal story of his time in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit. He described two young soldiers that served with him: “Zohar Link was a handsome and charismatic young man. He was a counselor in the Shomer Hatza'ir youth movement, played the harmonica, loved photography, loved nature. Who knows where he would have gone with his personality? David Ben-Hemo was an intelligent, handsome boy, an excellent athlete, curious, sensitive and modest. He captivated me from the moment I met him. I believe he had a bright future ahead of him.”
Link and Ben-Hemo were wounded while preparing for a military operation. “I accompanied them in the car that brought us to Tel Hashomer hospital,” Netanyahu said, “while holding David with all my strength. He died in my arms, before we reached the hospital. Zohar died shortly after. I will never forget these moments; both of them remained 19 years old forever.”
Netanyahu continued with the story of his brother, Yoni Netanyahu, who was killed in the famed 1975 Entebbe rescue operation, which he commanded. “Once, I saw my mother Tzila, may she rest in peace, sitting on a chair my parent's house, staring into space,” he said. “I asked her: 'Mother, what are you thinking about?' She answered: 'I am thinking about Yoni, about my Yona'le,' and then she added: 'there are only good memories.'”
“Today, the entire nation embraced all the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters and wives in bereavement, in loss that is too heavy to bear,” he said. “Our comfort is to continue in the paths of our dear ones, and fulfill their dreams.”
“We are a nation that seeks peace and prays for peace. Our one hand is outstretched towards peace, we all want peace in our hands, and the other holds the sword of David, in order to protect our nation against those who seek to harm us,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu ended his speech, saying “may the memories of the fallen, of our dear ones and our beloved, create memories for us, forever.”
Barak spoke concurrently with Netanyahu, at the Kiriat Shaul Military Cemetary in northern Tel Aviv. “We stand here, in front of this long row of tombstones, which are the tangible witnesses to the price you paid in blood, dear families, for our nation to live in its land,” Barak began. “Moments ago, the siren was heard throughout the land, moving and chilling as the blowing of a Shofar, echoing the commandment of our hearts, to remember the fallen.”
He continued: “22,684 fallen is the necessary price, that we did not want, the price of sovreignty in Israel, in this generation. A state is not given to the nation on a silver platter, and freedom is only given to those who are willing to defend it.”
“The struggle for the right 'to be a free nation in our land,'” Barak said, quoting the national anthem, “comes from choosing life despite the price paid in blood for this choice. This is the fate of our generation, and building a 'model society' that will be worthy of the sacrifice of the fallen is our generation's mission and its test.”
Barak finished by saying “I am sorry that I can not hug each and every one of you personally, and express my feelings, but on this day I feel close to you and identify with you, and recognize the price that is too high that you have paid for the security of Israel.”
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky led a ceremony in honor of the 200 Jews killed in anti-Semitic attacks around the world, since the establishment of the State of Israel.
“Our enemies understand that our strength comes from the IDF and the entire Jewish people's identification with the State of Israel,” Sharansky said. “Therefore, the war against the State of Israel and the Jewish people has no borders. Our enemies attack us not only in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv, but also in Argentina, France, England and Bombay.”
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.