Remarks delivered at Yom Ha’Zikaron commemoration - April 18, 2010
(by H.E. Harry Kney-Tal, Ambassador of Israel)
Yom Ha’Zikaron, a day of remembrance for those who fell in the struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel and in its defense, is marked during the 24 hours preceding the Independence Day, a stark reminder of the fragility of the Jewish condition.
Yom Ha’Zikaron is a day of collective and personal anguish, a grim reminder of the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers, sacrifice which enables us, the citizens of the State of Israel to go on with our lives.
The State of Israel was not offered on a silver plate. Its birth, shortly after the Holocaust decimated a third of the Jewish people, was a dream of two millennia come true, the culmination of the struggle for statehood, led by the Zionist movement – the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. For all the years of exile, the Jews were suspended between hope and despair, between the endless persecution and discrimination and a burning desire to re-claim their rightful place in the family of independent nations.
From its inception, Israel was confronted with deep hostility and rejection. Against all odds, the newly born and tiny Israel withstood the Arab aggression, in flagrant violation of UN resolution. 62 years later, the State of Israel is still disputed by many Arab and Muslim states, unable to reconcile with the legitimacy of the Jewish State.
The hand extended to our Arab neighbours is still rejected by a majority of Arab states, except Egypt and Jordan, which signed peace agreements in the last 31 years.
The dream of peace in our region, an idea shared by so many Israelis, remains unfulfilled.
In its 62 years of independence, Israel knew conventional wars and different types of terror. Its youth has been repeatedly called up to defend the country and ultimately pay the price. This determination to confront adversity did not weaken our firm belief that peace with our neighbours is possible. However, it will be achieved only if Israel remains strong and confident. Weakness in the Middle East is not conducive to peace.
The positive trends emerging in the Middle East with Pres. Sadat of Egypt’s courageous decision to break ranks with the Arab consensus and undertake the historical trip to Jerusalem to meet face to face with the Israeli leaders is not followed today by Palestinian and Arab leaders.
In the last year, diplomacy took a back seat to renewed efforts by our adversaries to challenge the legitimacy of the State of Israel. A massive campaign of defamation and de-legitimization of Israel is gaining strength, threatening to reverse the MEPP. In a sharp departure from past practices, our Palestinian partners refuse to come back to the negotiating table, preferring – instead – to invest their energy in undermining Israel’s posture in the world, dreaming of a world without an independent Israel.
Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself, in face of acts of aggression, is increasingly questioned. The flagrant manipulation of international humanitarian law is meant to limit our ability to ensure a decent life to our citizens, a life free of fear of being kidnapped or attacked by terrorists. The passing year marks a clear increase in the bellicose statements of Iran against Israel. And what is the response of the international community or the UN? Well, the usual fare of boilerplate verbal comments and platitudes. The international community is getting too complacent in face of the verbal assault on Israel. No UN Security Resolution, no mobilization of the human rights organizations to condemn in strong, unequivocal terms, the Iranian leadership’s vision of a Middle East free of Zionism and Israel.
In the 62 years of independence, war was imposed on us as a result of the deteriorating security condition. Israel went to war not because of an expansionist drive, not because our culture glorifies or sanctifies martyrdom. We go to war out of necessity, because we want to live in a region which still contests the Jewish people’s inalienable right to self-determination. This basic fact has been forgotten.
In Israel, the commemoration starts with the sound of sirens going off, proclaiming a two-minute silence. The traffic comes to a standstill. Flags are lowered and flown down at half mast. The memorial ceremonies are held all over the country. The small, besieged State of Israel is mourning its valiant defenders, young men and women, who died in their prime. They will never age or fulfill their dreams. They will continue to stare at us from old, framed photos, carving a huge wound in hearts and souls of their dear ones, wound which will never heal. The bereaved families live with the loss all year long. The memory of the fallen soldiers haunts them in their dreams and nightmares and there is little consolation for the loss of life.
Hayim Hefer captured the pain and agony of bereavement in his song “The parade of the fallen” and I quote:
“And then suddenly they hear familiar voices cry,
And they look homeward at father and mother,
at wives, children and brothers
And their faces are silent
and they stand perplexed
And then someone quickly whispers:
Forgive us, but we had to
We won the battles and now we are resting
These are my brothers, these are my brothers
And so they stand, the light in their faces
And the Lord alone passes among them,
With tears in his eyes He kisses their wounds
and He says in a trembling voice
to the white angels:
These are my sons,
these are my sons."
On this somber day, may the loyal and courageous heroes of freedom and victory be sealed forever within the hearts of all Israel, in this generation and forevermore.