22,570 fallen IDF soldiers and terror victims remembered: Tens of thousands of bereaved families visited their loved ones' graves at cemeteries across the country on Tuesday morning to honor the dead. The past year saw 133 Israelis join the list of fallen.
The main state memorial service honoring the Israel Defense Forces' fallen soldiers commenced at 11 am at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl. The ceremony began will a two-minute siren. State memorial services were also being held at the same time in all military cemeteries across the country.
The main ceremony was attended by President Shimon Peres,
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi
and Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said in his speech, "Behind every gravestone there are chapters of childhood, youth and adulthood, dreams that were shattered in one moment, aspirations that evaporated and went up in smoke.
Netanyahu turned to the audience, saying "this day I speak to you, my brothers and sisters, members of the bereaved families, as the prime minister of Israel and as the member of a bereaved family. I know bereaved parents have no consolation and no way to forget.
"I know the meaning of the death of a beloved and admired brother, who went away and will never return. I know that for a bereaved family every day is a memorial day. Every day of the year, every morning we wake up to a space which cannot be filled."
The prime minister said that "what changed in Jewish history is not the hatred of Jews, but our ability to defend ourselves against it. From here, in Jerusalem, I say to you and to all the citizens of Israel, that we will never abandon our fate again. We will never lose our defensive force. Our hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors, but our enemies must not be mistaken – we will never compromise on the security of the State of Israel."
The memorial service for the Israel Police's fallen officers was held on Mount Herzl at 9:30 am. The state ceremony in memory of terror victims was held on Mount Herzl at 1 pm.
Moment of silence (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Prime Minister Netanyahu was the first to speak. "All the waves of terror shattered in the face of the wall of the people of Israel's willpower and essentialness, but many noble and innocent victims have fallen," he said.
"Pedestrians, students on their way to school, pupils studying, people riding the bus, people sitting in restaurants, in cafés. They were all helpless citizens carrying on with their routine life, and the terroristic murderers did not hesitate to hurt them, seeing them as a target for disproportionate slaughter.
"The Israeli society has demonstrated its strength and endurance even under a series of mass terror attacks. Attacks which have not struck any other people or nation, and terror has failed miserably throughout the way…
"Those who crush a baby's skull don't want human rights. Those who blow up a bus filled with children don't want peace. If the terrorists could have their way, they would do to all the citizens of Israel what they did to some of them, and therefore we have no choice but to fight terror to the knife and defend our lives." According to Netanyahu, "Terror today is more dangerous than ever."
Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, the father of Rivka Holtzberg who was killed
by terrorists along with her husband Gavriel at the Chabad Home in Mumbai, also delivered an address during the ceremony.
"This year, me and my wife Yehudit and all of our living family have joined the bereavement family, the pain and yearning which never let go – and with every day that passes the pain grows," he said. "On the other hand, our faith and confidence in the Holy One blessed be He is what gives us the power and moral strength to face all the difficulties."
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
attended a memorial service in the city of Ramla. "An entire nation is bowing its head today," he said. "As the father of sons serving in the army I am proud of fighters who are ready to sacrifice themselves for the State."
Israeli flags with black ribbons on Mount of Olives (Photo: AP)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak
addressed the bereaved families on Tuesday morning, saying that "no one can share with a bereaved family the weight of the grief and the pressure of the loss. This is your personal, private area, and this is the intimate, internal circle which is yours only, and no one apart from you has the ability or permission to infiltrate it.
"But the state Memorial Day is ours too. All of us, citizens and servicemen, identify with your pain to the bottom of our hearts.
"For me personally, Memorial Day brings back a long list of dear fellow fighters who walked some distance with me, whose soul has become tied to mine, whose falling has not removed them from my thoughts, and the time passing by has not blunted my love and yearning for them," the defense minister added.
"They are always in my heart, and therefore I am with you, members of the bereaved families, as the defense minister, as a brother and friend standing alongside you humbly, in a silence of respect and brotherhood."
Remembrance Day will end at 7:45 pm as Israel's 61st Independence Day
celebrations begin. This year's torch lighting ceremony held in Jerusalem will mark the 100th anniversary of Tel Aviv, the first Hebrew city.
The police have declared a heightened state of alert
across the country. A full closure has been imposed on the West Bank, excluding exceptional cases. The closure will be lifted as Independence Day concludes on Wednesday at midnight.
Eli Senyor and Yael Branovsky contributed to this report