To all IDF soldiers, commanders and employees:
Eighty years have passed since World War II began—the biggest war of the modern era, a war that the brutal Nazi ideology made into the most murderous and despicable in human history. Families were uprooted from their homes, children were separated from their parents, the murder of Jews became routine, and a systematic plan of killing across an entire continent threatened to wipe the Jewish people off the face of the earth and eradicate its unique roots.
But the people, whose fate had apparently been decreed, managed to survive. More than that, in the most troubled times, it sent Jewish soldiers to fight in the Allied armed forces or in the Jewish Brigades against the Nazi army, while ghetto warriors and partisans fought for their lives and their freedom, bare-handed. Many others fought a different, equally difficult battle to maintain their humanity. How they clung to their Jewish identity and to life with what little strength they had left is still an outstanding example for us. The survivors made their way to the land of Israel and began their lives anew here.
If we could hear the voices of those of our people who fell victim to hatred and anti-Semitism, we would hear them asking one thing of us—that we never be dependent on favors from anyone else. We, the commanders and soldiers of the IDF—past, present and future—comprise the defensive forces that they prayed for on their way to the crematoria. For their sake, we make a commitment to continue telling their story. As the last generation privileged to hear their testimony first-hand, we will preserve every extant drawing and every diary page that survived, so their testimony can continue to echo for future generations. We will continue to fight for the nation’s security to allow it to remain independent and flourish and so the generations to come can live here in comfort and security.
The yellow stars worn on lapels have been replaced by combat insignia, and a Star of David flies proudly on the flag of an independent and defended Israel.
With one hand, we salute the fallen, while we make a fist with the other, prepared to beat down every threat.
May the memory of the Six Million be a blessing.
Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi is the Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.