IDF Chief: 63 years after Holocaust state's existence still questioned
Gabi Ashkenazi honors Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror at Western Wall Memorial Day ceremony.
A memorial service for Israel's Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism began Tuesday at 8 P.M. with a moment of silence heralded by a minute-long siren, prompting Israelis across the country to stand in silence and remember.
Speaking at the ceremony for Israel's fallen, held at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said "sixty-three years since the end of the Holocaust, the greatest atrocity in human history, we remain surrounded by countries, by peoples, by organizations, that refuse to come to terms with our existence in our homeland."
He also addressed the bereaved families directly, saying "unfortunately, this last year we added, with a shaking hand, more names to the memorial wall. Since last year's Memorial Day, and through this week, 65 more dead were added, and their number since 1860, when the first Jews moved outside of Jerusalem's walls, has reached 22,437 dead in Israel's wars."
Also speaking at the ceremony, President Shimon Peres said "we dream of peace, without accepting the edicts of surrender. We want to squeeze hands, but our enemies know that we are also capable of squeezing triggers of defense. We want to end the wars and continue the vision of the Zionist movement, but our enemies know that there is no other choice, the vision will be carried on the points of the protective spears, until the coming of peace... We are willing to pay for the day of peace, for the smile of children. Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian and Syrian children as well.
Peres personally addressed the bereaved families, saying "in a little while you will return to your empty houses, to your tear-stained pillows, tired from the aches of the day and you will want to give your eyelids a rest. As in previous long nights, tonight you memories will fight the web of sleep. Awake in your beds you will imagine that you hear the footsteps of the father, son, husband, brother that you loved so much, coming home. The hug and kiss at the door, the tired, proud look in his eye. Your proud looks. You will try to recreate the smell of the sweat, the sound of the running water in the shower. In the morning, tired from the dreams of the night, you will take the photo albums out of the depths of the closet, some of them yellowing with time, and you will try to remember. You will remember. Here and there a smile will grace your face at the sight of this or that picture, but very soon the tears will overpower the smile."
"Over the last 60 years," Peres continued, "We have something that previous generations of Jews, those who were trampled in the pogroms, were squashed in violent incidents, were burned in the crematoria, did not have. The soldiers who fell created a miracle unparalleled in history. The miracle of the state of Israel. For 60 years they fought in seven wars that were forced upon us, and that we won. They enabled us to establish an exemplary society, to be trailblazers in the world in the fields of agriculture, medicine and defense, to be a peace-seeking people, a democratic state, and a state that seeks justice.
Peres went on to say that "in wars, battles, and in between, many of our Bedouin, Christian, Muslim, Druze and Circassian citizens were killed in a war that never ends? They fought bravely. The pain encompasses all of Israel tonight, and it does not discriminate between races, religions, defense forces and corps. This is all of our pain."
Speaking at another memorial service, held at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert consoled the families of the young men and women who were killed in Israel's wars throughout the country's history.
"Year after year we remember those who remain young, full of joie de vivre, hopes and great loves, those who will forever be twenty years old or slightly older," he said.
"Year after year we return to the winding paths of the military cemeteries, filled with sadness among the long lines of marble which have been the cost of our life in this country, and we grit our teeth at the heavy price paid," the prime minister continued.
"Year after year we promise and pray that this will be the final victim, and then we return and with heavy hearts engrave another name on the monuments of the fallen. And the stone absorbs the names of the fallen in silence; another name and another life cut off in its prime, but the sharp pain must be borne and it flays the heart every time we remember the image of those who will not return," he added.
On Wednesday morning, ceremonies will commence at 11:00 A.M. at 43 Israel Defense Forces military cemeteries located across the country and at the Bedouin Soldier's Memorial at Movil Junction following a two minute blast of the siren.
22,437 soldiers have been killed since 1860, when the first settlers moved outside Jerusalem's walls. Of these, 65 were killed since last Memorial Day.
Since the state's establishment, 1,634 civilians have been killed in terror attacks. Of these, 24 people were killed since last Memorial Day.
Police quiz Druze women over possible Memorial Day protestsThree Druze protesters who have voiced their opposition to government proposals to merge the Daliat al Carmel and Usafiya municipalities were summoned by police Tuesday for "talks" out of concern they may be planning to disrupt Memorial Day ceremonies scheduled to take place in Daliat al Carmel.
Investigators questioned the protesters as to what demonstrations - if any - were planned for Wednesday and in the future. The activists, members of the group "Cries of the Women of Usafiya," denied suggestions they would try to disrupt Memorial Day ceremonies.
Two of the three woman questioned were identified as Samira Azzam and Nuha Azzam. Police questioned the former in her home while the latter spoke with investigators at the Hacarmel police station.
This is the first time the women were made to answer questions from police. Nuha Azzam told Haaretz she felt as if she were in a foreign country.
"Even in Syria they don't live like this," she said. "They've gone mad. We won't be afraid to raise our heads and demand our rights, and they won't tell us how to live."