Israel Inaugurates Memorial Hall for Wars' Fallen; Netanyahu Heckled

Netanyahu speech was interrupted by a bereaved father, who shouted at the premier. The hall commemorates the 23,000 who have fallen in defense of the country since the late 19th century

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening ceremony of the National Remembrance Hall in Jerusalem, April 30, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Israel's new National Remembrance Hall was inaugurated at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl on Sunday morning, in a somber ceremony briefly interrupted when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heckled by a member of the audience.

As Netanyahu began speaking at the ceremony, Shaul Chitiyat, the bereaved father of pilot Omri Chitiyat who died in 1996, called out at him: "Even on this holy day I don’t forgive the tears of Lea Goldin. Her tears demanded a response and an immediate request for forgiveness."

He was referring to Lea Goldin, the mother of Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, one of the Israeli soldiers whose remains are still in Hamas' hands (another being Oron Shaul), who recently told the prime minister that he had turned the bereaved families into “enemies of the people."

Following the brief interruption Netanyahu continued speaking.

"Our loved ones worked side by side in friendship and unity, Jews and non-Jews, all brothers in arms. All ready to give themselves up to the end to ensure the life of our country. It is thanks to them that we have risen, and it is thanks to them that we live. We will remember them all forever," he said.   

Along with Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also participated at the event. Also present were bereaved families, ministers, lawmakers and defense establishment officials including IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, police chief Roni Alsheich, Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen.

The hall, located at the military ceremony, is comprised of bricks bearing the names of the 23,000 soldiers who have fallen in defense of the country.

"The inauguration of the national remembrance hall for Israel's fallen is a seminal event for the State of Israel," Rivlin said in his speech. "This year we will mark 50 years to the Six-Day War. I know that many parents ask, 'who will remember our child after we're gone?' With this hall, we guarantee that the memory of our beloved and heroic sons and daughters will remain in the nation's heart for generations."

"The values that guided the construction of the hall, which combines the memory of the individual with the memory of the nation, are the values that are unique to us as the state of the Jewish people," he said. "There's no other country that has succeeded in connecting in an accurate and careful way personal and national bereavement. This hall isn’t only the home of the memories of the past. With this remembrance hall, we promise to preserve the past but with the same amount of determination to create the future."    

The Defense Ministry aims to use the site to change the way of memorializing the 23,000 people who have fallen in defense of the country from the late 19th century through today. For the first time, the state is memorializing the fallen from all of Israel’s wars in one place. 

Up to now, soldiers killed in battle were memorialized at different monument sites, depending on which unit they served in or in which battle they fell, at different locations throughout the country. As a result, there has been a lack of uniformity in the way each of them is memorialized.

Additionally, the Defense Ministry says that approximately 3,000 of the fallen are not memorialized at these sites connected to the various military corps, because they were not attached to a specific unit at the time they were killed.

Every day an electronic candle will be lit next to the name of each soldier who died on that date, and his picture will be displayed on screens installed throughout the site.