newsIsrael at War

Leaders gather at Yad L’Banim to ring in Memorial Day

"We all fight together. Because this is the only way to defeat the monsters of Hamas, who want to destroy us all," said Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other government officials at a Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) ceremony organized by the Yad LaBanim organization for bereaved families, May 12, 2024. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other government officials at a Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) ceremony organized by the Yad LaBanim organization for bereaved families, May 12, 2024. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO

Israel’s leaders gathered on Sunday in a solemn ceremony before Memorial Day to honor the fallen soldiers of Israel.

“I think of you every day,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the families of the martyrs of Israel at Yad LaBanim in Jerusalem. “Just as I think of my brother Yoni every day. I think about the unrelenting pain and longing, about the feeling that the sun has gone out, about the heroes and heroines we have lost, about the shattered dreams, about the dashed hopes.

“Our loved ones always stand before our eyes with the clear knowledge that thanks to them the State of Israel exists. This is our support, this is also our comfort,” added the premier.

He continued by telling stories of fallen soldiers such as Amichai Weitzen, one of the liberators of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom who ultimately fell in the Oct. 7 battle fighting Hamas terrorists.

Addressing the various communities that make up the State of Israel, Netanyahu said, “The firm commitment to our country encompasses all of our fighters in the difficult war—Jews, Druze, Christians, Muslims, Bedouins, Circassians… We all fight together. Because this is the only way to defeat the monsters of Hamas, who want to destroy us all.”

In conclusion, Netanyahu remarked, “The spirit of the people will continue, with God’s help, to lift us up in the fateful challenges that are still ahead of us, and in the full 76 years of our independence. May the memory of those who fell in the ranks of Israel, and of the victims of hostilities, the heroes beloved of our souls, be with us forever.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets bereaved families at a Memorial Day ceremony organized by the Yad LaBanim organization, May 12, 2024. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO

The packed ceremony was attended by Israeli leaders such as the Ashkenazi and Sephardi Chief Rabbis of Israel, David Lau and Yitzhak Yossef. The former recited a chapter of Psalms in honor of the soldiers of Israel. Survivors of the Oct. 7 attack as well as widowers sang for the crowd.

Memorial Day begins on Sunday evening with a nationwide siren at 8 p.m. and is marked by commemorations at military bases and cemeteries throughout the country.

Since last Memorial Day (April 25, 2023), 1,594 Israeli soldiers and civilians have died. This includes 760 Israel Defense Forces soldiers (61 of whom succumbed to their wounds from previous years) and 834 civilians, of which 822 were killed on or after the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas in southern Israel, according to numbers released by the Israeli Ministry of Defense on Thursday.

Five additional soldiers were killed in the Gaza Strip over the weekend.

Recounting the horror of Oct. 7, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana said “reminded us of things we wanted to forget. Things about which we swore ‘Never Again.’ And yet, for a whole day, they happened to us more, and more, and more.”

Closing on a hopeful note, Ohana said, “We will be worthy of them when we send away the cursed virus of strife and hatred from the country. We will be worthy of them when we make it clear to all our enemies: the State of Israel is strong. The IDF is strong. Israeli society is strong and together we will win.”

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