Memorial Day begins
Live: Memorial Day begins with siren

Special ceremony in Jerusalem to tell terror victims' stories after year of attacks.

Tova Dvorin, | updated: 20:38

Memorial Day ceremony at the Kotel
Memorial Day ceremony at the Kotel
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

The State of Israel's main Memorial Day event in Jerusalem began at 8:00 pm Tuesday, shortly after the nationwide siren and moment of silence at the Western Wall (Kotel). 

Part of the main event, hosted by journalist Hila Korach, will be held at Sultan's Pool - in front of the Old City walls. It will bring to center stage the personal stories of families whose relatives were murdered in terror attacks over the past year - including the stories of Dafna Meir, the nurse killed in Othniel; Alon Bakal, who died in the Tel Aviv pub shooting; Hadar Cohen, who was killed two months after being drafted during at attack at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate; and Aharon Benita-Bennett, who was stabbed in Jerusalem's Old City last October. 

Watch: Western Wall Memorial Day ceremony:

Participating artists include Eliad Nahum, the Teisha Neshamot Band, Harel Skat, Karen Flass, Idan Amedi, Amir Benayoun, Eden Ben-Zaken, Knisiat Hasechel, and Klezmer artists Hilik Frank, Ninette Tayb, and Ayal Shiloach. 

Behind the event is Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Dov Kalmanovich, who initiated the ceremony eleven years ago; he also heads the Terror Victims' Advocacy Organization. 

Rivlin: I prayed this year would see no more bereaved families

President Reuven Rivlin opened the event. 

"Last year, I stood here [...] and for a moment, I wanted to dream," Rivlin said. "I prayed that maybe one day, Memorial Day would be a day that fades into our memories: that there would not be another family suffering, their home destroyed. I prayed that maybe this year, we would stand here at last without new pain." 

"But this year, reality hit us," he continued, perhaps referring to the current terror wave. "This year, again, I met talented boys and girls - kind, loving, and full of promise. Each and every one of them was a treasure of life."

"But this year I got to know them too late: they were gone." 

"Today is a day of mourning - nationally and personally," he continued. "Every one of us has loved ones who are not here with us. Today, the nation mourns together the great lack it feels."

“Together, a great nation mourns its fallen; Ami, my neighborhood hero, who was only 16 year-old; Freddie, an ember plucked from the fire on Seder night 1947, he had survived the Holocaust, and yet was killed on the battlefield; Maoz and his son Nir, Eran and his father Dubi, boys who followed the fathers they barely got to know. Hussein Ali, a bride-groom who never made it to his wedding day. Hadar, guardian of the walls of Jerusalem, who died as she protected them, just this year. The list of our fallen goes on and on. None of them had planned for death. None of us bring children into the world with the thought that one day we will bury them in the soil and say the Mourner's Prayer, standing over their open grave."

"Fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, I stand in front of you and my heart is broken, my heart is torn. Your children, your loved ones, the fruit of your hopes, the subject of your adoration - there is no limit to the sorrow and suffering, there is no answer for the silent call - only the silence of death.”

“Last year we did not have much time to be together. We each burrowed into our own path of righteousness, and we had disagreements, by their very nature extremely difficult and tough, and speak to the root of our existence here. However, the IDF is not just the army of all of us - the IDF is all of us. It is the secular and the religious, Jewish and non-Jewish, it is Arab, Bedouin, Druze and Circassian. It is those born in Israel and it is immigrants, it is sons of the city, and of the settlements, members of Moshavim and Kibbutzim – it is the length and breadth of the country, left and right. And the map of grief surrounds us all, on a chilling and equal scale. The same pain of longing and the same fate. The pinpoints in the map all mark the same, in the Negev and in Tel Aviv, Kiryat Arba and in Moa'ar, in Sderot, Jerusalem, Yeruham and Shlomi. We must remember that the IDF does set the course. The IDF does its utmost in the highest and most professional manner, to navigate through safely and reach its goals. Our confidence in the IDF and its commanders, and our confidence in its review and control mechanisms – is our confidence in ourselves. It is our confidence in our strength to stand before those who have sacrificed for us – your sacrifices – and in the justness of our cause.”

He added, “For over sixty-eight years we have been fighting the same war, the war for our independence; an ongoing campaign that changes its face and form. It is a painful battle that all the time adds fresh scars to the body and spirit of this ancient and robust people. Inherent in the stones behind me, the stones of the Western Wall, the 'wall of tears and hope', is testament that we are not men of war. We did not go into battle hungry for war, but with the desire for peace, with a lust for life, and a hated of death. But we realize the bitter and horrible truth – that there is a terrible price – which you have paid – to be a nation determined to protect its citizens and its independence. We will stand strong against anyone who dares to put our resolve to the test in any way.”

Gadi Eizenkott's call for unity

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott then spoke, emphasizing the importance of unity on Memorial Day. 

"Beyond the silence wrapping the State of Israel this evening, we discover again how much we are tied to one another, united by a common fate and purpose," he began. "This unity is the basis for the Israel Defense Forces, and shapes its image as the people's army, and the state military." 

"This is the unity that enables the whole nation to be behind us, which strengthens us, and gives our actions a tailwind," he added. 

Eizenkott also addressed the current terror wave, noting terror aims to "sow fear in the public's heart," and noting that Israel's home front is as important as the front lines. 

"On the eve of Independence Day, the IDF is a powerful and self-confident military," he concluded. "If we support one another, there is no enemy that we cannot defeat."