President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were among the speakers Tuesday at Israel’s state memorial ceremony marking 50 years since the Yom Kippur War.
The ceremony took place at the Hall of Remembrance on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. The attendees included Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana and Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Amit.
On Oct. 6, 1973, a coalition of Arab states, led by Egypt and Syria, coordinated a surprise attack on Yom Kippur, “thinking that the IDF would not be able to defend Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish year,” the IDF’s official website states.
The war ended 18 days later, on Oct. 24, 1973, after Israel drove back the Arab advance, forcing Egypt and Syria to accept a ceasefire. A total of 2,691 Israeli soldiers were killed, according to the IDF.
Netanyahu confined his remarks to the war and the heroic and dedicated efforts of the Israeli people, who rose to the occasion to save the country.
“The nation, secular and religious, left-wing and right-wing, Jews and non-Jews, everyone proved then that the commonality between us is greater than what separates us and I’m certain that also today, if a battle is forced upon us, what’s common between us will overcome the differences,” he said.
Herzog took the opportunity to address the internal rift Israel has experienced over the last nine months, culminating in conflict during a protest on Sunday over a Yom Kippur prayer service held at Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv.
“Only yesterday, in the midst of the holiest day, exactly 50 years after the outbreak of war, we saw, in the first Hebrew city of all places. a shocking and painful example of how the internal struggle within us can escalate and become extreme,” the president said.
“I know that I speak for the absolute majority of Israeli citizens when I express deep sorrow and shock at the sight of our own people fighting one another on a day that has always been a symbol of unity,” he added.
Herzog was referring to the tensions that have erupted over a Yom Kippur prayer service in Tel Aviv, during which organizers used Israeli flags to set up an improvised barrier to separate male and female worshippers in defiance of a Supreme Court order.
An estimated 200 protesters arrived at Dizengoff Square, sparking angry exchanges with the service organizers. One protester even tore down the makeshift barrier. He was detained by police and released soon after.
Netanyahu harshly criticized the protesters.
“To our astonishment, specifically in the Jewish state, on the holiest day for the Jewish people, left-wing demonstrators rioted against Jews during their prayers. It seems that there are no boundaries, no norms and no limitations on hatred from the extremists on the left. I, like most Israeli citizens, reject this. Such violent behavior has no place among us,” he said.
While Netanyahu decried the protesters, opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed the religious sector for pushing observance on secular Tel Aviv.
“They make sure to explain to us that there is only one version of Judaism—their version,” he said. “They demand that in the name of tolerance, even in our neighborhood, they will decide what is allowed and what is not allowed,” he added.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai vowed to protect the “secular nature” of Tel Aviv.