Bereaved Israeli Father Blasts Shalit Deal in Memorial Day Speech

Yossi Mendellevich, whose son Yuval was killed in a 2003 attack on a Haifa bus, aimed much of his criticism at last fall's deal in which Israel traded 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit.

A bereaved father who used his speech at a state Memorial Day ceremony to blast the country's attitude toward victims of terror attacks won a rare round of applause for doing so.

Yossi Mendellevich, whose son Yuval was killed in a 2003 attack on a Haifa bus, aimed much of his criticism at last fall's deal in which Israel traded 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

Memorial Day - Mark Israel Salem - April 27, 2012
Mark Israel Salem

"The view that we can't abandon a live soldier, whom the state sent into battle and for whom it is responsible, can't be on the same level as the protection of civilians, for if so, there would be no justification for endangering soldiers in battle," Mendellevich said in his address on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, at Wednesday's state ceremony for victims of terror. "The state can redeem captives militarily, but it isn't entitled to use terrorists who murdered civilians as coin in a trade."

Shalit was freed, he continued, "but at what price?"

"Hamas won big time," said Mendellevich. "Six months after being released from Israeli jails, the murderers of our children are celebrating abroad and in Gaza. They're getting married, resuming terror, hosting television shows."

Mendellevich said he didn't understood the security rationale behind the Shalit swap or what swap supporters said was the moral imperative prompting it.

"What is the state's moral view of its responsibility for the security of Israeli citizens inside Israel?" he asked. "It's true that one day a year, they remember the victims of terror, but the other 364 days, they push them aside, ignore them, forget them, trample over them and neglect them as if they didn't exist."

"[Israel] has strictly maintained a clear hierarchy of victims, between the military - a slain soldier - and the civilian, victims of terror," he continued. "Our dead are second-class dead. ... Why does this absurd hierarchy exist?"

Mendellevich's speech was not the only kink in Memorial Day ceremonies.

Dozens of bereaved families who showed up for an annual ceremony at a memorial for paratroopers near Tel Nof discovered that it had been canceled with no prior notice. They conducted their own impromptu memorial ceremony, reading the Yizkor memorial prayer off a cell phone.

The IDF spokesman's office said the unit's official memorial ceremony took place on Memorial Day eve at the Bilu Junction, as it does every year. In recent years, the families have developed the custom of holding a second ceremony near Tel Nof in the morning, the IDF said in a statement, "but this year, the unit commander decided to move the ceremony to the unit's base."

The IDF said the families were invited, "even though this isn't an official ceremony." The army "regrets and apologizes for the pain caused the bereaved families" who apparently didn't get the message, it said.

But the families complained that the army has yet to apologize to them directly, as opposed to through the media.