The ceremony was attended by President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with the Supreme Court President Miriam Naor.
“This is the first memorial ceremony for Ben-Gurion to have taken place without Shimon Peres, may his memory be blessed,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu as he began his speech. “Peres was Ben-Gurion’s prodigee, and I have to say that I feel Shimon’s absence, as do you, as does everybody.”
The honor of being one of the first founding fathers in reserved for Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu said, adding that Israel’s small but intrepid first leader understood that the mere declaration and establishment of a state did not ensure its survival.
“The problem was how to create a state. He understood that three fundamental foundations were required: military strength, economic strength and diplomatic strength. We are building and nurturing these foundations of Ben-Gurion,” Netanyahu continued before explaining how his ideals remain the sine qua non of survival in today’s Middle East.
“The simple truth is that in our region the weak do not survive, only the strong do. The strong are not attacked or (enemies) are unable to attack them. You make peace and forge alliances with the strong,” he said.
“That is why Ben-Gurion went about building our military strength. The IDF became one of the strongest and leading armies in the world, and anyone who threatens our existence is himself in extremely serious danger,” he warned as he listed some of the most recent reinforcements to Israel’s military might.
“With this in mind, we are now arming ourselves with the F-35, with submarines, with cyber security and with defensive tools such as Iron Dome and David’s Sling. Obviously, this all costs a lot of money and that is why we need a strong economy and that requires the development of the country.”
Finally, the prime minister emphasized the importance of establishing alliances in the face of seemingly perennial threats posed by surrounding nations.
“Because of the noose placed around us by the Arabs in our surroundings, Ben-Gurion set about establishing alliances with countries beyond the most obvious. Every state needs alliances and superpowers also need alliances. Here we combine our military and economic strength, which enable us to create alliances. We create new relationships which in my eyes contribute to the best chances of advancing peace between us and the Palestinians.”
Taking to the podium after Netanyahu, President Rivlin extolled Ben-Gurion as “the builder of Israel, who was one of the greatest people of action since the Zionists movement’s inception … During the days of the British Mandate, he led the establishments of dozens of institutions—military, economic, political, educational and social—which were created for the new Israeli kingdom.”
In addition to being a man of action, Rivlin continued, Ben-Gurion was “a competent translator of the language of vision into a language of reality. Ben-Gurion was endowed with a unique and exceptional ability to make decisions.”