Defense Minister Yoav Gallant sent a letter to government ministers and Knesset members on Thursday requesting that they stress unity in official state speeches on Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day next week.
“I would like to contact the ministers and members of the Knesset through you, and ask them to express statesman-like and Zionist messages in their speeches at ceremonies in the cemeteries,” wrote Gallant in a letter addressed to Speaker of the Knesset Amir Ohana and Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office Yossi Fuchs.
“We should not introduce political expression into our holy of holies, the military cemeteries,” the defense minister said. “We must deliver a unifying message to Israeli society. In the cemeteries are buried the martyrs of Israel’s wars, from all parts of society, and the people who gave their lives for the country.
“We are all aware of the public discourse for and against the participation of elected officials in the memorial ceremonies. The elected officials, who represent the public in the Knesset and in the government, are elected by the people and are a symbol. I believe that the statesmanlike presence of elected officials in the memorial ceremonies and in the military cemeteries on this holy day is of great importance,” he added.
On Tuesday, Gallant told the Public Council for the Commemoration of IDF Soldiers: “These days, more than ever, Israeli society needs a unifying message, not a divisive one. In the military cemeteries, the dead are buried from all parts of society and the nation. The enemy’s bullets did not distinguish on the battlefield between those who came from the city and the village—they are all the same.”
Gallant’s letter comes as Israel faces a politically contentious period over the government’s planned judicial reforms. In scattered instances, anti-reform protesters disrupted ceremonies during Holocaust Remembrance Day earlier this week, a highly unusual occurrence given the day’s significance to most Israelis.
Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Actions of Terrorism falls this year on the evening of April 24 and the daytime hours of April 25.
Independence Day begins at dusk on April 25 and continues until sundown on April 26.