This year, Israel’s annual Remembrance Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the Wars of Israel will have a special meaning.
At the height of a polarizing political storm, we will all pause for a day and recognize that our enemies do not differentiate between left and right, between supporters or opponents of judicial reform or between civilians and soldiers. To our enemies, we are one target, no matter our religious practices or political leanings. Today, we recall that only together, united, will we be able to face down those who threaten us and wish to destroy us.
Today, as on every Remembrance Day, the entire nation of Israel feels the deep pain that Israel’s bereaved families experience all year round. This year especially, against the backdrop of current events, our coming together will take on a unique significance. When we stand together in the military cemeteries where the fallen among our family and friends are buried, we will know without a doubt that we are all one people, a nation united.
Alongside the bereaved families, there are thousands of us who are named after a father, an uncle, a brother or a friend we will never have the opportunity to meet. I was privileged to be named after one of these thousands of heroes, the late Danny Verdon, and thus join those who have become living monuments to fallen heroes.
Danny Verdon was my father’s commander in a special reconnaissance unit of the Negev Brigade. As a child, I tried to gather as much information as possible about this man and legend. I had many questions, and no matter how much I was told, and how many facts I gathered, I always wanted to know more.
Danny Verdon was a member of Kibbutz Givat Brenner. He loved our country and knew it inside out. During his service, he was twice awarded Medals of Honor and the Medal of Valor for the attempted rescue of one of his soldiers who was wounded by sniper fire. Despite the danger, he tried to save his comrade, but it was not to be.
This final heroic action took place during Danny Verdon’s last rescue mission. He was sadly trapped in an alley in the town of El Arish at the end of the Six-Day War, where an Egyptian sniper ended his life abruptly. His sudden and unexpected death left his unit and friends stunned and distressed. Danny Verdon left behind his young family—a widow and two children. At that very moment in that alley in El Arish, my father vowed to name his own child after his revered commander whom he greatly admired.
Several years later, my late father Joseph Danon, one of the fighters in the Reconnaissance Unit of the 99th Infantry Brigade, was mortally wounded in the head. He survived for some time, but in the end, after years of struggle, it led to his death. On the day of the birth of my first-born son, my wife and I chose to name him Aviad Joseph after his grandfather, the hero whom he would never meet.
Now that he is older, my son confronts comparable challenges to those I faced and asks similar questions to those I raised in my youth. He is also keen to talk to those who knew the man after whom he is named, to see every aging photo and gather details about his beloved absent grandfather.
For the bereaved families, memory is the elixir of life. Every photo, video or story brings our fallen loved ones back to life. Since most of the soldiers passed away prematurely, our memories are limited and dwindle with the years. I hold the memory of my father close to me, but as the years go by, the few memories I treasure are more than the number of years I was privileged to be in my father’s company. Most of the bereaved families are in a similar situation, with long decades to deal with the bereavement and only fleeting moments of dear memories, which are all grasped tightly.
This year, on our nation’s Remembrance Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the Wars of Israel, we will all stand as one in memory of the fallen. We will recite their names, and remain steadfast in our determination to continue to protect the homeland for which they bravely sacrificed their lives. Today, we are all named after Israel’s fallen heroes. Today, we are all one bereaved family sharing in our grief together, remembering our loved ones.
In memory of my late father, Joseph Danon. Blessed be his memory.
Knesset member Danny Danon is a senior member of Israel’s ruling Likud Party. He served as Israel’s 17th permanent representative to the United Nations and is currently chairman of the World Likud.