Family's message removed from soldier's grave
Defense Ministry erases writing that criticized prime minister and defense minister, which family created to protest government's refusal to include brothers' names on headstone; soldier's parents outraged, while ministry claims other bereaved families requested the removal.
Defense Ministry staff on Thursday night removed writing criticizing Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the grave site of Staff Sgt. Li Mat.
The erased message had read: "Lilik was killed under the watch of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – Bibi – and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon – Bogi".
A memorial service was held on Thursday at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem to mark a year since Mat, 19, was killed in Operation Protective Edge. Mat's resting place still has no headstone, thanks to a conflict between the fallen soldier's family and government bureaucracy. The Mat family insists on including his brother's names on the headstone – and the Defense Ministry refuses.
Li's father, Motti, spoke against Ya'alon and Netanyahu at the service, saying they were impervious and had marked the family as the enemy. Alongside the temporary headstone bearing the writing, the family placed a guitar, a surfboard, and a white note with the names of Mat's parents and siblings.
Following the erection of the makeshift headstone, the Public Council for Commemorating Soldiers held a telephone survey of bereaved parents, widows, and orphans, which led to the decision to remove the writing.
"The cemetery is a sacred place," Yad Lebanim Chairman Eli Ben Shem, who backed the decision, told Ynet. "We must not detract from the site's dignity, from the fallen soldiers and their memory. The disagreement must be kept outside the cemetery. Bereaved parents can and are allowed to express criticism and protest, but not use the grave and headstone for criticism."
Mat's mother, Smadar, called the removal of the message by people who "came like thieves in the night" disgraceful.
Her husband also said he was appalled, and accused others of politicizing the issue. "They should be ashamed," he said. "Disgusting behavior."
The Defense Ministry said the message was removed following requests by other bereaved families whose loved ones are buried at the Mount Herzl military cemetery.
The Ministry said earlier this week that the family's request to add the brothers' names on the headstone was rejected based on policy approved by the Supreme Court, but that it was given the option of including the names on the inscription at the foot of the grave.