For the first time in more than 20 years, Kibbutz Yad Mordechai held its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day without any government funding yesterday, despite repeated requests for continued financial assistance.

The annual disbursement of NIS 40,000 the government has given the ceremony for the past two decades are important both to help the kibbutz cover the costs and as a symbol of the significance the state attributes to the Jews who resisted the Nazis in European ghettos, said Avshalom Vilan, a former Meretz MK who heads the Havatzelet fund, which puts together the ceremony.

Yad Mordechai, located near Ashkelon, was named for the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Mordechai Anielewicz.

"This NIS 40,000 is very important to offset the financial costs. It is much more important as a symbol of the state's participation and the importance it attributes to the ghetto fighters," said Vilan. "This is another foolish move by a state authority that isn't capable of looking at history and understanding what is valuable and what is negligible."

The ceremony, which has been held on the kibbutz since 1951, has become even more important in recent years because it symbolizes Israel's struggle against terrorism, said kibbutz secretary Ofir Livneh.

Kibbutz on the Gaza frontline

Yad Mordechai is located just three kilometers from the Gaza border and has been on the front lines of the barrage of rocket and mortar fire on southern Israel over the last few years.

Even though the ceremony, held at the end of Holocaust Remembrance Day, is not an official state affair, it is regularly attended by ministers, Knesset figures, military officials and thousands of other Israelis.

Political figures in attendance this year included opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Interior Minister Eli Yishai. Participants also included Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, the general in charge of Southern Command, which includes Yad Mordechai.

Livneh said the kibbutz would not be able to continue to hold the ceremony unless the government declares it an official state ceremony and resumes providing funding.

"This ceremony is doubly important because it's in the south and symbolizes our hold on the land in the face of terrorism. The lack of funding is disgraceful," he said. "This ceremony can no longer be seen as a local event. It is the size of a state ceremony, and someone needs to understand this and declare it a state event."

The government institution responsible for state events said it stopped funding the Yad Mordechai ceremony two years ago, when its own budget was affected by its move from the Education Ministry to the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs.

The government initially attempted to cut the purse strings last year. But in 2010 the kibbutz secured last-minute funding from the Ministry of Senior Citizen Affairs, which it was unable to do this year, said Eyal Reiz, secretary general of Hashomer Hatzair, the movement that founded Yad Mordechai.