Israeli Defense Forces soldiers, commanders and officers,
Eighteen-year-old pioneer Moshe Berski came to Israel with his sister in 1913 and joined Kibbutz Degania. He was murdered in 1913 by Arab rioters as he was delivering medications to a fellow kibbutz member.
Degania officials, who had to break the devastating news to his parents in Russia, were taken aback by the response sent by his father: “Dear brethren! What we were afraid of has happened and we are heartbroken. But I believe that your spirit will not fail, and you must not fall back, God forbid. On the contrary! I hope that the memory of my late son will bolster you as you wage this sacred war that is finally bringing our great idea to life, the idea for which my son sacrificed his life.”
Berski was Degania’s first fallen member, and since then, every city nationwide has been riddled with gravestones and national memorials—monuments that remind us of the blood with which we have paid for becoming a safe and secure country.
The nation of Israel has grown in this country, developing this unique country and marking exceptional achievements. But the memory of the fallen is always with us and, as Berski’s father commanded, must be our source of strength.
Memorial Day calls on all Israelis to unite. It slows down our hectic routines and makes every Israeli take the time to stop and think of the fallen and the bereaved families; stop and share the imaginable pain they shoulder daily.
This pain never fades. It is always there, searing and sharp, clouding every happy moment.
This pain, cruel as it is, is also a mark of the freedom, independence and security Israeli citizens enjoy.
IDF commanders and soldiers are always vigilant, detecting and destroying the enemy, regardless of whether it is a terrorist cell lurking yards away from a border-adjacent community or an enemy hundreds of miles away. IDF commanders and soldiers work tirelessly in all sectors, developing means and methods of warfare, and embarking on operations to safeguard the country. But our primary weapon will forever be the fighting spirit, the willingness to go to battle and the quality of the people in our ranks.
It is in this spirit, which also entails the value of mutual guarantee, that we must care for the wounded and the bereaved and ensure our missing and captives return to their country and their families.
The resilience demonstrated by the Berski family illustrates an exemplary dedication to values and commitment, as evident by the second part of the letter, which reads: “We are sending you our second son to stand for our fallen son. Moshe’s death means we are all coming.”
Shalom, Moshe’s brother, made aliyah shortly after, and was soon followed by the rest of the family.
IDF soldiers, commanders and officers—giving back to the state should be an integral part of life for every Israeli citizen. We, as those in IDF uniforms, are privileged to do so.
Together with you, I embrace the bereaved families. May the fallen’s memory be our moral compass.
Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi is the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
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