The annual official Memorial Day ceremony at the military cemetery in Jerusalem's Mount Herzl on Wednesday began with the two-minute siren at 11 a.m., at which point Israelis nationwide stood in silence to honor the IDF soldiers who fell defending the Jewish state, as well as victims of terror.
Attending the ceremony were Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the gathered that three months earlier, Malka Kalangel, the mother of Major Yochai Kalangel Hy"d, stood at the cemetery and shouted from the depth of her heart, "How can you say goodbye to a child?" He then related how he, himself, underwent the same agony when his brother, Yoni, was killed 39 years ago in the Entebbe raid, and how he was the one who told his parents of Yoni's death and witnessed their screams of agony.
He explained that anyone who has experienced bereavement cannot go into battle on a whim, but vowed that the IDF would go to battle when there was no other choice: "Only this readiness for war can deter war, or decide it victoriously, when it happens."
The central ceremony was conducted in parallel to another ceremony at the military cemetery in Tel Aviv's Kiryat Shaul, with the participation of Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) and the IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan.
Memorial for terror victims
Later on Wednesday afternoon at Mount Herzl a separate memorial was held in honor of terror victims, following the morning's honoring of fallen soldiers.
The ceremony began with IDF Chief Cantor Shai Abramson singing a soulful prayer in memory of the murdered, followed by a song by the IDF choir.
Netanyahu then took the stage and addressed bereaved families, saying "your pain is our pain. ...Last year unfortunately dozens of new names were added to this memorial stone wall behind me."
He described how the state of Israel has learned over the years to respond to terror attacks with a firm hand, and continue to build and flourish despite the attacks.
The prime minister noted the various terrorist attacks since last year, starting with the abduction and murder of three Israeli teens by Hamas terrorists, and up to the car attack in which Shalom Yochai Sherki was murdered in Jerusalem last week.
Netanyahu called on Israel's "neighbors" not to praise terrorists and incite murder, saying "this is not how you make peace," in a clear reference to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
"Their souls will continue forever"
After Netanyahu spoke Bat-Galim Sha'ar, the mother of 16-year-old Gilad who was among the three teens murdered by Hamas terrorists in Gush Etzion last June.
Speaking about the moment of silence honoring the murdered on Memorial Day, Sha'ar noted "silence is a cry beyond words."
"We all stand here with a shared feeling of loss," Sha'ar said, adding that there is also a "shared goal" of the Jewish people.
"Our dear ones who are no longer with us and who believe in the goodness of man...their souls and the souls of the Jewish people will continue forever," she concluded.
With the commencement of Israel's Memorial Day on Tuesday night, a ceremony was held at the Western Wall (Kotel) Plaza in Jerusalem, at which both Rivlin and Eizenkot addressed bereaved families.
Speaking about the counter-terror Operation Protective Edge last summer, Rivlin said "death struck at the door of many, regardless of their religious beliefs. No camp was left untouched by death. ...The bereaved family is intertwined, with a shared fate. A fate which was forced upon them."
"Israeli society, with all its camps, is connected not just in terms of shared destiny, but in terms of purpose and meaning. Memorial Day is a day upon which we, all of us, gather together in the national mourning tent," said Rivlin.
Photos: Flash 90