There is one day in the year when all Israelis feel the excruciating pain endured by our heroic bereaved families. On Remembrance Day the anguish, the sorrow, the sense of loss envelopes all of us, yet also pride that these families feel on a daily basis, evident on the faces of all Israelis.
We Israelis know how to argue and debate with one another in a fashion that sometimes seems overly wrought with emotions to outsiders, but when it comes to the honor and respect we feel for these brave families, our unity knows no bounds. This is why we all, from the Right and the Left, religious and secular, must do our utmost to ensure that these families receive everything that they so deserve.
We often hear politicians and public figures say that “no amount of money can compensate for your loss,” or that “the State will do everything in its power for the bereaved families.” These platitudes must not remain mere statements made once a year in patriotic fervor. We must put them into action. One example of where the State must rectify its mistake of the past is the way it treats the widows of IDF soldiers who have fallen in battle.
The lionesses - the mothers and wives left behind – use every ounce of their strength to raise and protect the surviving children of IDF heroes that they are left to safeguard. Nevertheless, for many years these widows were forced to endure the humiliating policy where they would lose their Defense Ministry-funded subsidy the moment they remarried.
This policy basically discouraged widows from remarrying and moving on with their lives. I am proud to say that the present Knesset was finally able to legislate changes to the law ensuring that it is no longer considered burdensome for these women to remarry and that they continue to receive all that is morally due to them and their children.
Similarly, in the life insurance industry we were also witness to unfair, even prejudiced practices against some of our bereaved families. For decades widows of pilots who lost their lives in the line of duty were entitled to a financial settlement. Widows of "green" soldiers, however, were not entitled to any dispersment from the insurance companies. This created unnecessary strife and bitter feelings between these families where only shared sorrow and solidarity should have existed.
The ultimate sacrifice
Moreover, the long waits in lines and repeated pleas to clerks and bureaucrats only served to further demean these noble families. Thankfully, this moral oversight was also rectified by legislation over the past few months removing one more unpleasantness from the lives of those who have given so much to our country.
While some progress has been made in recent years, there is still much that needs to be done to ensure the dignity of these families. We must remember that our bereaved families are inherently different from your average Israeli family unit. Instead of two marital partners sharing the daily joy, and burden, of raising a family, this unit consists only of these brave widows carrying the weight of the world upon their shoulders.
Their spouses made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country and their families paid an unfathomable price to allow us to live as a free people in our historic homeland. Still, while their spouses’ battle may have ended with a heroic act in a time of war, these brave women must continue on fighting every day of their lives.
There is no medal for getting your children up in the morning and readying them for school each day, and there are no citations from the Chief of Staff for completing the “mission” that is every family affair when one is left alone to raise the surviving children of our heroes. It takes an unlimited amount of energy and to complete these missions.
This is why our society owes the world to these families and must ensure that the burden of seemingly routine every day acts are relieved as much as possible. It is the least that we can do as we look on at these families with pride and salute them for serving as an unlimited source of inspiration for the entire Jewish people.
Knesset Member Danny Danon is Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and Chairman of the Knesset IDF Widows and Orphans Caucus