Memorial ceremony for the fallen fighters in the Altalena incident
Memorial ceremony for the fallen fighters in the Altalena incidentMark Naiman, GPO

President Reuven Rivlin spoke Wednesday at the memorial ceremony for casualties of the Altalena incident of 1948, during which soldiers of the newly-created IDF were ordered to fire on the “Altalena” ship, on which Irgun fighters carried arms to Israel’s shore for the War of Independence. The ceremony took place in the Nahalat Yitzhak cemetery in Givatayim.

The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chairman of the Irgun Martyrs' Association Yair Assiskovitz.

"Seventy years have passed since the command was given, since the lights were extinguished, the light of reason and human discourse, the light of mutual responsibility, and as always in our history when one man raises his hand against his brother, the shock hits the foundations and the house trembles."

"Seventy years have passed and the wound has not yet healed, and that’s a good thing. There are wounds that must remain open, so that we do not think we can just go on," Rivlin added. There was never an incident like the Altalena. An order to our soldiers - to fire on our soldiers? This is inconceivable. We did not think that in the course of a war of survival, they would kill defenders of the land, fighters from among the best of the people, the remnants of the camps who came to fight for the people and the land. Brothers."

"Seventy years later, we must salute the Altalena fighters not only for their devotion, but mainly for the fact that even though they received crossfire, brothers’ fire, they did not respond. They did not meet fire with fire, they did not meet death with death.”

"This was the most important lesson that the young State of Israel, the young Israeli society, learned. The most difficult and painful disputes we will not resolve by force, as Menachem Begin said: ‘My brother, I call you: Do not raise your hand on a brother.' Even today, the lesson of the Altalena is not to stop talking. Brothers have to talk to each other. "

Rivlin concluded by saying: "The heroes of Israel, the fighters of the Altalena, even after seventy years we salute you. May their memory be blessed." At the end of the ceremony, the president and the prime minister placed bouquets of flowers on the graves of the fallen.