Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Tuesday for all citizens to “unite and stand as brothers,” speaking in an address at the main state ceremony marking Memorial Day.
“This year, more than ever, on the Memorial Day for the brave of our nation, we will remember that we are brothers: Jews, Druze, Muslims, Bedouin, Christians and Circassians,” said Netanyahu at Memorial Hall atop Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
“Brothers in service, brothers in arms, brothers in blood. This is the true spirit of our people. Together, we will stand as brothers and guarantee our independence from generation to generation. Together we will stand as brothers, and we will bow our heads in endless tribute to the heroism of the fallen,” added the premier.
Netanyahu noted the imperative of retrieving Hamas captives Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who crossed into the Gaza Strip of their own volition in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Both Mengistu and al-Sayed suffer from mental illness.
The prime minister also called to recover the bodies being held by Hamas of two IDF soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed in action during “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014.
Memorial Day began on Monday night as a one-minute siren sounded across the country. Commemorations are taking place at 52 military cemeteries and memorial sites on Tuesday.
“The siren that pierced the silence right now, making its way from one end of the land to the next, rattles our souls and makes way for remembrance, which overwhelms us with silence,” said President Isaac Herzog in his speech at the Western Wall memorial ceremony.
“I ask myself, I ask us: What other country in the world has such a special sound? It is the sound of pain and of hope, of grief and of pride. It is the sound of the State of Israel. A sound that calls on us to pause for a moment, to lock in the sanctity, to remember and to connect—together,” the president continued.
Fifty-nine Israeli soldiers fell in the line of duty in the past year, and an additional 86 disabled veterans died due to their condition. Overall, 24,213 soldiers have lost their lives in service to the nation since 1860 and there have been 4,255 victims of Arab terror since 1851.
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