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Israeli memorial day

In last Memorial Day ceremony as president, Rivlin vows to keep fighting for return of missing troops after his term ends

Rivlin exhorts Israelis not to take a State for granted; "I am a son of this land. I fought in most of its wars."

Rivlin with a bereaved family at the ceremony at the beginning of Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers (Photo: Haim Zach/GPO)

The following is the full text of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin's speech at the Western Wall on Tuesday night during at a solemn commemoration for fallen soldiers of Israel's wars and terror victims.

“’They that sow in tears shall reap in joy,’ (Psalm 126) wrote the psalmist. ‘My silent father, full of his scream …how will I not remember that you sowed me in tears and weeping, you will reap me,’ wrote Captain Be’eri (Beki) Hazak of Kibbutz Afikim, who fell on 17 October 1973/11 Tishrei 5734 in the fierce battles on the western side of the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur War.”

“Dear mothers, fathers, children, partners, comrades in arms, brothers and sisters, our brothers, members of the family of bereavement. Year after year, we meet you. We ask to join you, for one day, in the task of grief and memory. You do not need these days. Every day, he or she is with you, in your hearts. As you go to sleep and as you wake up, when you go home and as you go about, you bear the mountain of memory on your weary shoulders, the wound that cannot be healed, that pain whose burden cannot be shared with anyone. Two periods in the Jewish-Israeli calendar are days of awe for us. One is in Tishrei, and the other is in Nissan and the beginning of Iyyar. Alongside the pillar of clouds, the clouds of respect and splendor of Tishrei, stands the pillar of fire rising into the firmament – the fire of battle and campaign, the column of memory – between Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron, and Yom Haatzmaut. ‘Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people’ (Exodus 13, 22). Such are we, marching between fire and cloud, weeping and dreaming. Last year, in the shadow of the virus, we could not stand with you. The sight of the empty mountain, the sight of the orphaned graves, was heart-wrenching. Standing together with the young men and women who paid the ultimate price, was a compass that showed us the way, and without it we all thought – what has become of us. And so, we stood, afraid of coming to the mountain, tied up by the threat of the virus, looking on from afar.” 

“Dear families, soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, I am a son of this land. I fought in most of its wars. I saw my friends, my contemporaries, commanders and those under my command, older than me and much younger, galloping towards the line of fire for our people, for life, for liberty. I remember each one of them. Their names. Those who were the last of their families and those who were native-born sons with deep roots. From those who were in my year at school and those who were my leaders in the youth movement to the sons, and sometimes the grandsons of my best friends. I remember them falling at the side of the path, embracing our land, part of it for eternity. Our sons and daughters were called to the flag and did not hesitate for a moment. Even when facing sights of great darkness, blood and fire and pillars of smoke, they did not think of themselves. They thought of us.”

“From here, I want to speak to you, the commanders, the soldiers, those soon to enlist, the young generation. I grew up as a child at a time when we did not have a state. For me, for those of my generation, the State of Israel is not something to be taken for granted. This strong and powerful country you see was established by the heroism and dedication of young people of your age. Today, the task of protecting the State of Israel, is on your shoulders. Remember, without love of the homeland, dedication to mission, aiming for victory, comradeship, purpose, personal example and the purity of weapons, a free people will not be established here. The Israel Defense Forces and the State of Israel, we need you young, strong, united, united, united, determined to lend a hand, determined to continue to prevail, ready when necessary, to pay a price.”

“Soldiers of the IDF, men and women, I have had the honor of meeting you during my term of office time after time. Know that your stature, the strength of your dedication, the sense of heroism and action are no less than those that the founding generation inspired in us. You, our tousled and handsome ones, generation after generation, ensure our eternal existence. In order to strengthen our security, we must be ready to fight for it. To build a new and flourishing society in the State of Israel, we must be ready and aware for many years. To fight for our freedom and liberty every time we are called to do so. To fight, and to win. Many people make the mistake of thinking that fear is the opposite of heroism. But as Yitzhak Sadeh, the commander of the Palmach and one of the founders of the IDF, taught us, ‘It is not cowardice that is the opposite of heroism, but selfishness. Heroism is, first and foremost, a moral characteristic.”

“Dear families, seven years ago, when the country was ablaze in Operation Protective Edge, I began my term as president, on behalf of the citizens of Israel. My first baptism of fire was visiting the families of soldiers who had fallen in action. I stood before the families and bowed my head on behalf of the Israeli people. I wanted to be with them in their pain, to bear with them the bad news. I vowed to sanctify the memories of Israel’s heroes. I did my best to bring back the missing and captive soldiers. May they come back to us, and soon. I worked here in Israel and around the world to defend our soldiers and for our inalienable right to defense and security. I hope that I did right, but I surely did not do enough. I promised you, families, that I would be your soldier. That is what I did and that is what I will do. Even as I come to the end of my term of office, I am not released from service. As long as I live, I will hold it in my heart and will work on your behalf.”

“The IDF is the people’s army, and I believe in this people, whose sons and daughters they are. I believe in our destiny to live on this good land, to build and develop it for the benefit of all its people; to defend it and to ensure that its borders are secure from every threat and every enemy – near and far. I believe in our ability to stick together, to grow and to flourish proudly as individuals and as a people. Proud to walk the path paved by Israel’s heroes who fell in the battle for our rebirth, who commanded us to choose a life of liberty and respect, of devotion to our common purpose of establishing a model society in a Jewish and democratic state. ‘When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like dreamers’ (Psalms 126). Weeping and dreaming. May the memory of those who fell in Israel’s wars be etched on the heart of the nation for the glory of the world from generation to generation.”

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