"For us, the bereaved families, time stood still the moment we received the terrible news," he said, referring to the loss of his brother, Yonatan Netanyahu, who was killed in action during Operation Entebbe in 1976. "A cruel sword cut our lives in two."
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The prime minister spoke at a service held at the Yad Lebanim memorial – a ceremony that launched the events planned nationwide for Israel's memorial day, officially known as Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day. Bereaved parents, political and religious figures were in attendance.
Netanyahu at ceremony (Photo: GPO)
"Each memorial day I think of my dear (brother) who had died, about my parents, who lost a beloved son, and my brother Ido who also lost his sibling," Netanyahu said. "Like many other citizens, I remember my comrades who have fallen.
"(…) When the siren sounds, we will all become one family," he added. "The citizens of Israel will unite in mourning and remembrance. They will bow their heads in gratitude to those who have sacrificed their lives to protect our people. Thanks to them, we were granted independence and the right to live safely in our country.”
'Our lands are under threat'
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who openened the ceremony, offered words of condolence to the bereaved parents in the audience, and noted the threats that Israel continues to face.
Mount Herzl Military Cemetery (Photo: EPA)
"Our lands are under constant threat," he said. "The war might not be the last. We need faith and strength of spirit."
On Wednesday, various memorial services are to be held, concluding with a torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl at 8 pm.
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