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Yom Hazikaron 2023

One solemn moment, just to remember

“Our independence is formed in this junction where choosing life meets the willingness to sacrifice it for the sake of the nation,” writes IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi.

A woman stands at her grandson's grave in the Rishon Letzion Military Cemetery, April 21, 2023. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90.
A woman stands at her grandson's grave in the Rishon Letzion Military Cemetery, April 21, 2023. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90.

Among the many fallen that we are going to honor this week, the image of Yonatan Boyden is on my mind.

Yonatan made aliyah with his parents as a young boy. I met him for the first time when he arrived for an interview at the Paratroopers Brigade’s Orev Anti-Tank Company. When he talked about his desire to become a fighter and defend the country he had moved to, I saw a spark in his eyes. I accepted him with a warm embrace and knew that he would be a great fighter and a good comrade. Yonatan was badly hurt in a battle north of the Security Zone in Lebanon and succumbed to his wounds several days later. He loved life and was willing to risk it for the country.

Our independence is formed in this junction where choosing life meets the willingness to sacrifice it for the sake of the nation. I have seen firsthand—time and again—how much pain his family has had to endure following his death. Their pain is shared by many bereaved families in Israel because bereavement has no address; it can find its way to any home whose sons and daughters serve in the military.

Memorial Day creates a deep connection between the personal and the national. This year,  precisely because of the ongoing domestic tensions, we have to focus on our personal remembrance and imbue ourselves with its powerful human strength. The duty to remember should have us unite around it and focus on what brings us together. We all have to act with dignity in the military cemeteries rather than make them into a place of dispute. Restraint and calm carry a deafening sound. Remembering our dear fallen will lose its solemnity if it is held in an atmosphere of disruption.

Some 30 years have passed since Yonatan died for the country he loved. The price he and many others paid, the price paid by the families whom they have left behind, demands that we strive to be worthy of it. The reflection on one’s remembrances means that each one of us thinks of someone specific. During the ceremonies, we have to focus only on the pain and the loss and hold on to it so that we can filter out all the background noise: only to remember, and feel the pain and the honor. If only for one moment, for one sacred day.

Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi is the IDF chief of staff.

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