Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Happy Independence Day!

Speaker of the Knesset at Mt. Herzl
Speech for the Eve of Independence Day 5763/2003

Happy Independence Day, my brothers and sisters of Israel:

Our flag has just been raised to full mast, and once again it is flying proudly over our Holy City, on the mount of memorial and heroism, as though it were natural and self-evident; as though it were always so.

But the "Yizkor" [memorial] prayer, and the sad trumpet fanfare still echoing in our ears, and the distress of Memorial day still in our hearts--these remind us, today, as they do each year, how far all this is from self-evident.

At this time, during this ongoing war against terrorism, we are not, unfortunately, in need of any reminder.

For this year, like last year, we remember well, on each and every day, the terrible price of our freedom.

This freedom, on whose altar were offered up such heroes as the soldier of the 51st Golan Battalion, 1st Class Sergeant Matanya Robinson, of blessed memory, who fell in the battle of Jenin, only a year ago; and Master Sergeant Tiran Arazi, of blessed memory, from the Nachshon Battalion of the Fifth Infantry Brigade, who fell the following day, on Holocaust Day last year, together with twelve other heroes, in that terrible alley of death in the Jenin Refugee Camp.

May God avenge their blood.

Yardena, the twelve-year-old sister of Matanya (who was twenty two when he fell), and Mor, the eleven-year old daughter of Tiran (who was thirty three when he fell), may they live long, good lives, are standing here at my side, as we close the gates of tears and sanctify the festival of our resurrection, the Day of Independence. They are honouring us with their presence and will participate in the ceremony.

In every generation, each person must feel as though he himself came from slavery to redemption, to freedom, to independence.

Each year, as the flag is raised here, I remember several historical flag raisings, that have been branded in our memory, in Israel's collective memory.

I recall the raising of the official flag of the young State of Israel in front of the United Nations building in full view of the whole world, when Israel proudly joined the family of nations; I remember the improvised "Ink Flag", the flag of excited fighters that was flown at Um Rash Rash, now Eilat....

I remember the flag that was flown at the end of the battle, on the top of the Mt. Hermon outpost, by the members of the Golani Brigade, when they conquered "the Eyes of the State," after having lost dozens of their comrades; and I remember the flag flown at the official ceremony, in the center of Cairo, by Israel's first ambassador to Egypt.

But this flying of our flag on high, in the open, in full view, is not so s elf-evident. So much meaning is encompassed in this simple act. There is no symbol more pure to express our resurrection from the ashes, from the piles of ruins, from the blood.

This raising of our flag expresses hope and determination, optimism and power, pride and even a small amount of protest against the whole world: "Look and see: We are here! This is our place, and here we will stay"!

Today too, even as we celebrate fifty-five years of our independence, as a sovereign nation sure of itself, we still feel the need to wave our flag in full view, just to show them all, in a very Israeli way.

Perhaps this is because today, after our great and true dream--of peace, of a little tranquility--has burst over our heads, and has been proved a terrible illusion, after the great sobering up,

It seems that we are all returning to take a stronger grasp on our old and good Eretz Yisrael [Land of Israel], of the songs, the culture, the symbols, and, of course, our blue and white flag.

And it's true, everyone can feel it: We are once again gathering around our group bonfire; we are removing our robe of cynicism; we are returning closer to our Israeliness, in a sort of protest: against the situation, against the terrorism, against the broken dream of peace.

Independence Day, despite the situation, or perhaps just because of it, has become again a day of popular, real, and simple rejoicing, shared by us all; a day when we are not ashamed to express our love--as we once did--for this Land, for our own State.

And despite the situation, and perhaps just because of the situation--just because we once again understand that nothing here is self-evident--we are filled with pride, with joy and with gratitude for what we have achieved here in fifty five years.

True, we had not expected to meet our fifty fifth Independence Day like this, still in the midst of a war against horrific terrorism.

If only I could truly stand here this evening, at the beginning of our Independence Day, and make a promise to all of us that everything will be fine; that the longed-for peace - is just outside our walls; and that tomorrow a new, a promising dawn will break through the skies of this wounded and bleeding land.

Instead we can, all of us, look reality in the eyes, and promise ourselves and our children, that as always, as we have done throughout the past fifty five years, even if sometimes we must grit our teeth, together we shall continue to dream and to try to make it happen; together we shall continue to hope and to build; and together we shall wave the flag.

Happy Independence Day, Israel!

Monday, May 05, 2003

Yom HaZikaron - Remembrance Day

Soldiers and security personnel who have fallen since the War of Independence: 19,914

Total number fallen (including the pre-State period: 21,540
(This number includes disabled IDF veterans who later died from their wounds and non-IDF personnel who fell in the line of duty).

Number of soldiers killed since Remembrance Day last year 254


The Parade of The Fallen

Hayim Hefer

They come from the mountains,
from the valley, from the desert,
They come - names, faces, eyes -
and they stand for the parade.

They come in a masculine step,
strong and sun-tanned,
They emerge from the shattered planes
and from the burnt tanks;

They rise from behind the rocks, from across
the dunes, from connecting ditches,

Brave as lions, tough as tigers, swift as eagles,

And they pass one by one
beween two rows of angels,
Who feed them candy and place flowers
around their necks;

And I look at them, and all of them are happy.

These are my brothers my friends, these are my brothers.

And they meet one another,
black eyes and blue and brown,

And they remind each other of names,
of weapons, and of places,

And they pour each other cups of coffee and tea
And burst out suddenly together shouting: "Huzza! Hurra!"
And they meet in the large assemblage,
friends and comrades,

And officers slap the privates' shoulders
and the privates shake the officers' hands,

And they burst out in song and clap their hands
And all the dwellers of heaven listen to them
awe struck,

And the get-together lasts day and night,
and night and day,

Because such a bunch has not yet been seen above!

And then suddenly they hear familiar voices crying,
And they look homeward at father and mother,
at their wives, their children and their brothers,
And their faces are silent
and they stand ill at ease

And then someone quickly whispers:
Forgive us, but we had to!
We won the battles and now we are resting.

These are my brothers my friends, these are my brothers.

And so they stand, the light bright on their faces,
And only the Lord Himself passes among them,
With tears in His eyes He kisses their wounds
And He says in a trembling voice
to the white angels:

These are my sons my friends,
these are my sons!

Hebrew lyrics:


Yom Hazikaron, the day of remembrance for those who fell in the struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel and in its defense, is marked during the 24 hours preceding Yom Ha'atsma'ut (Israel's Independence Day). On YomHazikaron the entire nation remembers its debt and expresses eternal gratitude to its sons and daughters who gave their lives for the achievement of the country's independence and its continued existence.

Yom Hazikaron is a day of collective and personal anguish mingled with awe and honor for the fallen. It is a day on which the living rededicate themselves to the State of Israel, so that they may be worthy of the sacrifice of those who died for its survival.

In Israel, Yom Hazikaron commences countrywide with the sound of sirens proclaiming a two-minute silence during which all activity and traffic cease. Flags are flown at half mast and memorial ceremonies are held all over the country. Ending at sundown, the somber, reflective mood of Yom Hazikaron gives way to the celebration of Yom Ha'atsma'ut, a transition which emphasizes the lasting tie between the sacrifice of the country's fallen and the continued existence of a vibrant and dynamic State of Israel.

Lighting the Remembrance Torch

We light this remembrance torch as a symbol, to honor all the heroes and heroines of our generation; the partisan groups, the ghetto fighters and the underground defenders, the innocent victims of terror attacks, and those who fought in the wars to defend the State of Israel since its establishment.

Every home in Israel traditionaly lights its own 24 hour candle, allowing the flicker to remind us every moment of the sacrifice of the few on behalf of the many.

(Communicated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)


Selected Readings for Remembrance Day

(Communicated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

The Paratroopers Cry

Hayim Hefer

This wall has heard many prayers
This wall has seen the fall of many other walls
This wall has felt the touch of mourning women
This wall has felt petitions lodged between its stones.
This wall saw Rabbi Yehuda Halevi trampled before it
This wall has seen Caesars rise and fall

But this wall had never seen paratroopers cry.

This wall saw them tired and wrung out
This wall saw them wounded, mutilated
Running to it with excitement, cries and silence.
And creeping as torn creatures in the alleys of the
Old City
And they are covered with dust and with parched lips
They whisper, "If I forget thee, if I forget thee Jerusalem"
They are swift as eagles and strong as lions
And their tanks - the fiery chariot of Elijah the Prophet
They pass by with noise
They pass by a stream
They remember the 2,000 awful years
In which we had not even a wall to place our tears
before –

And here they stand before it and breathe in dust
Here they look at it with sweet pain
And tears run down and they look at one another perplexed
How does it happen that paratroopers cry?
How does it happen that they touch this wall
with great emotion?
How does it happen that their weeping
changes to song?
Perhaps because these boys of 19,
born at the same time as the state,
carry on their shoulders - 2,000 years.

Hebrew lyrics:



May God remember the valiant men and women who braved mortal danger in the days of struggle prior to the establishment of the State of Israel and the soldiers who fell in the wars of Israel.

May the people of Israel cherish them in their memory; let them mourn the splendor of youth, the altruism of valor, the dedication of will and the dignity of self-sacrifice which came to an end on the battlefield.

May the loyal and courageous heroes of freedom and victory be sealed forever within the hearts of all Israel, in this generation and forevermore.

Hebrew text:


Memorial Service for Members of the Israel Defense Forces

O God, full of mercy, Who dwells on high, grant proper rest in the wings of the Divine Presence – in the lofty level of the holy and the pure ones, who shine like the glow of the firmament – for the souls of the men and women of the Israel Defense Forces who met their deaths in the wars of Israel, in action of defense, retaliation and security, while fulfilling their missions and during their service, and to the souls of all the fighters of the underground organizations and the fighting units in the nation's battles, and all the men and women of the intelligence community and the security and police forces who gave their lives in the sanctification of God's Name and, with the help of the God of the armies of Israel, brought about the rebirth of the nation and the state and the redemption of the Land and the City of God, as well as all those who were murdered, in Israel and abroad, by murderers of the terrorist organizations, by virtue of our prayers for the ascent of their souls.

May the Merciful One therefore shelter them in the shelter of his wings for eternity; and may He bind their souls in the Bond of Life. The Lord is their heritage, Eden their place of rest. May they repose in peace in their resting places, may their merit reflect on all of Israel, and may they meet their destiny in the End of Days.

Now let us all respond: Amen.

Hebrew text:


The Silver Platter

Nathan Altermam

"A State is not handed to a people on a silver platter" -
Chaim Weizmann, first president of Israel

The Earth grows still.
The lurid sky slowly pales
Over smoking borders.
Heartsick, but still living, a people stand by
To greet the uniqueness
of the miracle.

Readied, they wait beneath the moon,
Wrapped in awesome joy, before the light.
-- Then, soon,
A girl and boy step forward,
And slowly walk before the waiting nation;

In work garb and heavy-shod
They climb
In stillness.
Wearing yet the dress of battle, the grime
Of aching day and fire-filled night

Unwashed, weary unto death, not knowing rest,
But wearing youth like dewdrops in their hair.
-- Silently the two approach
And stand.
Are they of the quick or of the dead?

Through wondering tears, the people stare.
"Who are you, the silent two?"
And they reply: "We are the silver platter
Upon which the Jewish State was served to you."

And speaking, fall in shadow at the nation's feet.
Let the rest in Israel's chronicles be told.

Hebrew lyrics:


And my Brother Said Nothing

Amir Gilboa

My brother came back from the field
dressed in gray. And I was afraid that
my dream might prove false, so at once
I began to count his wounds.
And my brother said nothing

Then I rummaged in the pockets of the trench-coat
and found a field-dressing, stained and dry.
And on a frayed postcard, her name -
beneath a picture of poppies.
And my brother said nothing.

Then I undid the pack
and took out his belongings, memory by memory.
Hurrah, my brother, my brother, the hero,
now I've found your decorations!
Hurrah, my brother, my brother, the hero,
I shall proudly hymn your name!
And my brother said nothing.
And my brother said nothing.

And his blood was crying out from the ground.

Hebrew lyrics:


Those who Live by their Virtue Will Say

Uri Zvi Greenberg

They were the chosen... They sang... Now their voices are silent.

The true sons of the race of David that fell with their sword in
their hand.

Simple and lovely like young David of the Shepherd Clan...
And they shall praise Thee, O Lord, from the dust they've returned

The dust Thou created them from is the dust of death...
This kind of dust whereof Thou createth primeval man.

The Temple Mount and the Rock -
From that dust they'll praise Thee...Immortal are they!

There is no truth, there is no glory but them.
And we, in this world, do live by their virtue.

And by their splendor we prosper.
Whoever looks unto their graves will ne'er be enslaved any longer.

Hebrew lyrics:


The Third Mother

Nathan Alterman

Mothers are singing. Mothers are singing.
A fist of thunder bangs down. Strong silence.
Red-bearded lamps are marching
in the empty streets in rows.

Autumn mortally ill, weary,
inconsolable autumn,
rain without beginning or end.
No candle in the window, no light in the world,
three mothers sing.

I hear one of them say:
"He was here but yesterday.
I shall kiss his every fingernail and finger.
I see a tall ship in a calm bay,
and my son from the topmast hanging."

And the second one says:
"My son is tall and quiet.
I am sewing a holiday shirt for my dear.
He's walking in the fields. He will soon be here.
And he holds in his heart a lead bullet."

And the third mother says with her wandering eyes:
"No one was dearer or kinder...
Who shall weep when he comes if I cannot see?
I do not know where he finds him."

And she bathed her eyelashes with weeping.
Perhaps he is only resting. Perhaps
in foreign places he measures
the paths of Your world, O God,
(Like a wandering monk) with kisses.


Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Speech at the Yad-Lebanim Gathering on the Eve of Remembrance Day


Dear Families,

Night is falling on the eve of Remembrance Day for the Fallen Soldiers. The State flag has been lowered, and soon a siren will sound. From thousands of pasts, from all battlefields, it is as though a convoy of shadows is winding its way to Jerusalem. It is a convoy which is over one hundred years old, comprising the protectors of the people who marked the path of revival and victory with blood and glory the convoy of Israels freedom.

On Remembrance Day, as is customary in Israel, memorial candles will be lit in every home, and in every heart the flame of memory for a fallen warrior will be kindled a precious family member or beloved friend who is gone. For there is not one person in Israel who has not lost someone close or familiar over the years, nor is there anyone in Israel who does not remember.

It is you, the families, who will forever preserve their memory. It is the shadow which follows you during the day and the light which illuminates your nights. It is a painting engraved deep within your souls, and fragments of life which will never be forgotten.

I share your pain, because in my heart, I also feel that constant sorrow for the absence of my brothers-in-arms companions with whom I went into battle, and only blind fate decided who would be buried and who would fight the next battle. Most of my life, I shouldered the heavy and unavoidable burden of responsibility as an IDF commander, as a member of the government and as Prime Minister the responsibility of sending young fighters to the front line. Only one who has experienced this can understand and appreciate the awesome burden of this decision, which often involves the inevitable loss of life in war, retaliatory operations and both covert and overt missions which are unavoidable in these times.

Thus, I have made the following commitment and vow: I shall do my utmost to bring about a breakthrough towards peace. There is hope in the air this spring, a hope rooted in constant and persistent combat; the battle of IDF soldiers, Israeli Police and the security services, who include in their ranks many good and courageous people who dedicated their lives to repelling and defeating terror; a hope which has recently been raised by the decisive victory of the Allies in Iraq, and from the inspiration and determination that some of the leaders of the free world, headed by the President of the United States, demonstrated against the evil regimes in our region. If indeed this hope is realized, and conditions evolve depending, first and foremost, on the actions of the new Palestinian Government this opportunity must not be missed. I also take into account the painful sacrifice, which, I admit, will be very difficult for me to make. However, I will not be deterred if I know that this is the time to end war and bloodshed and to bring peace for generations. I have only one condition, firm and unshakable: the security of Israel will in no way, and under no circumstances, be compromised.

Night is falling, and when memories are rising in our hearts we will cherish our fallen. And you, the bereaved families, shall be enveloped with love. My personal wish is expressed in the following lines by the poet from the revival and freedom generation, Nathan Alterman:

I have one wish: that your extinguished hearts
Will be illuminated by only one light tonight.
It is the light of brotherhood and the radiance of angels
Who see us with a thousand eyes.

May the memory of those who fell in battle and while fulfilling
their duties be forever bound to the Jewish People and the State of

(Communicated by the Office of the Prime Minister)


"The Ambassadors of Peace Shall Weep Bitterly..." (Isaiah 33:7)

In memory of those who have fallen while on duty in the Israeli foreign service

Every year, as the State of Israel remembers those who fell in the struggle for its establishment and defense, the Israel Foreign Ministry commemorates the men and women of the Foreign Service, who lost their lives while serving as Israel's representatives to the nations of the world.

Edna Peer
4 May 1970, Asuncion

Efraim Elrom
23 May 1971, Istanbul

Dr. Ami Shehori
19 September 1972, London

Giora Raviv
29 April 1975, Johannesburg

Ety Tal-Orr
19 March 1986, Cairo

Ehud Sadan
7 March 1992, Ankara

David Ben-Rafael
17 March 1992, Buenos Aires

March 2002: 10th Anniversary of the terror attack on the Israeli
embassy in Buenos Aires

Eli Ben-Zeev
17 March 1992, Buenos Aires

Eliora Carmon
17 March 1992, Buenos Aires

Shira Arnon
2 January 1995, Lagos

Aviv Cohen
27 September 1996, Santo Domingo

Sorek Gefen
2 March 1999, Amman

Azi-Elazar Brosh
3 August 2001, Bishkek

Orit Ozerov
March 9, 2002, Jerusalem

David Diego Ladowski
July 31, 2002, Jerusalem

Shlomo Argov
February 23, 2003

(Communicated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)