Address by President Peres on Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s wars at the Western Wall; Sunday, April 18, 2010:
Bereaved families, whose Remembrance Day does not start with the siren that calls for a minute of silence, or ends with the kindling of the beacons, Chief of the General Staff, Major-General Gabi Ashkenazi, at the head of the IDF soldiers in these crucial times,
You who came to this place, in the nebulous light of dusk, in the chilly Jerusalem evening air, facing the remnants of the Temple.
You, parents, widows, children, brothers and sisters, sitting among us here with silent lips and tearful eyes.
You, the representatives of over twenty thousand households in Israel, who lost the most precious of all, in the storm of battle, and in the line of duty.
A son, a daughter, whom we shall never again see.
The daughter whose laughter rings in your ears, the peals of laughter of the father, the husband, which we shall never hear again. The look in the eyes, the sadness and the smile of the brother, the sister, who are lost for evermore.
It is because of the disappearance of this smile, and of this sadness, the void left by moments lovely, difficult, moving and sad, that we are convened here this evening.
To grieve today for the loss of young lives and the bereavement of families that wished to see their sons and daughters become scientists and teachers, intellectuals and locksmiths, to mourn their departure from the world of the living.
I am aware that nothing can compensate for the sound of the steps of a son you expect to hear in the staircase and that has suddenly turned silent. The son whose uniform you hung on a hanger in the closet and that generates a yearning to smell the smell of his body one last time.
The son or daughter whose pictures you look at with a longing that becomes increasingly more acute.
Facing your tormented eyes – there is a loss of words. A testimony of the truth that destiny has inflicted upon you the heaviest of prices – bereavement. And bequeathed to our nation the greatest of achievements – revival.
In their battle, the fallen prevented the destruction of the new tabernacle of David.
Their outstanding courage led to victory despite being outnumbered and outgunned by the aggressors.
The destiny of Israel is similar to the destiny of an only son in human history. With no brother that equals his faith. With no sister that equals his language. With no partner in his destiny. With no territorial depth. With no natural resources.
Israel’s strength springs from the strength of its faith. And its greatness emanates from the heroism of its sons.
Today we grieve for their loss. And are blessed by their legacy.
You brought them into this world. You shaped their world.
On the eastern wall of the nation their pictures will hang as a mark of a miracle, of a legend, a legacy. A legacy that still imbues the ranks of IDF soldiers also today. A legacy that relates to the dangers of the past and serves as a warning for the dangers that might be. A legacy that has no fear nor is it hampered by helplessness. A legacy marked by a chain of triumphs. A legacy that will not forget the missing or abducted soldiers and will do everything in its power to bring them back.
I remember the first Independence Day on which even then we were attacked. And I also remember the last missile launched against us.
And to dispel the doubts that have built up, now stand the gravestones of our sons, to testify that we could and we shall.
Even if the dangers of today did not pass, the courage of yesterday did not wane.
There are still those who wish to annihilate us. And at their head, the autocratic Iranian regime that seeks to cast its rule over the Middle East, silence it with lethal weapons, and launch an anti-Israel incitement campaign to deflect Arab concerns.
On no account must we disregard these threats. Nor should our enemies belittle our capabilities.
A threat to the peace of the Jewish people always carries the danger of turning into a threat to the civilized world as a whole. To its well-being and values.
We shall stand fast according to our tradition – until the enlightened world wakes up to the danger it is facing. A challenge to it, no less than to us.
We are a minority among the nations. But we had the good fortune to have sons that defended us with great courage.
Alone we won seven wars, and emerged from them more strengthened and more determined.
Facing you, standing in front of the remnants of our Temple, I say to you, I say to Zahal’s soldiers, I say to all the citizens of Israel:
You are here, Zahal soldiers. Citizens of Israel, they are with you and stand behind you.
You are the shield of our people, everywhere and through the ages. On this blessed occasion, I want to say in the name of the State of Israel at large: We do not seek war. We are a nation that yearns for peace, but know how to, and will know how to, defend itself.
We are a democratic country, with a great deal of divisiveness and chasms, and internal disagreements and wrangling – yet we are also a nation that knows how to stand united and put aside the bickering in times of need, able to defend itself and inflict a resounding defeat on those who wish to destroy us.
Your sons and daughters, absent from our midst, enabled us to be here this evening with you, and we must thank God for our wonderful country, despite the shortcomings we have to put right.
In the 62nd year of our independence, the aggressors were beaten back but did not disappear, and meanwhile, the largest Jewish nation in the annals of Jewish history was born. We have the strongest army we have ever known. And the most prosperous economy we have ever had in our years of independence.
Alongside the most advanced scientific achievements, a vigorous culture and a democracy that even in times of war enjoyed freedom.
And the hope that someday soon we shall know peace.
We must remember what came before us. And think about what will follow. And we know that without the sons that have fallen there would be no future for the children that will be born.
We want to express our gratitude from the bottom of our hearts to the youths that are no more – whom you raised and in whom you instilled the values that made them into what they were until their last breath.
It is their courage that gave our people the strength to face the challenges ahead – not to fear the enemy, not to cease building, not to lose faith in the peace to come. And it will come.
This evening, as the events marking Remembrance Day begin, and tomorrow evening, as the celebrations marking Israel’s 62nd Anniversary start, the State of Israel says thank you to its defenders. It says thank you to Zahal for what it is. And thank you again.
The State of Israel holds your hands with immense love, the love of a people that knows how to embrace its sons, who make us proud by their fighting and building ability.