DM Gantz presenting Yitzhak Arad with a certificate of honor
DM Gantz presenting Yitzhak Arad with a certificate of honor Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry

On Sunday evening, the fourth night of Hanukkah, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a ceremony in his office honoring Jewish veterans from the Second World War, and lit Hanukkah candles together with them.

Also participating in the ceremony were the director-general of the Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amir Eshel, and the head of the department for bereaved families at the Defense Ministry, Aryeh Mualem.

Opening the ceremony, Defense Minister Gantz said, “It is a great honor to light candles with you in the sovereign, strong, and secure State of Israel. What you may have dreamed of when you fought in battles prior to the establishment of the state has become a reality, and we now have a duty to preserve the inheritance you have bequeathed to us.”

Referring to the difficult times in which we find ourselves, Gantz noted that, “It is precisely at this time, when many of our elderly citizens are confined to their homes due to the coronavirus epidemic, that we must make a special effort to publicize and commemorate the heroism of those who fought for us in the past. You, the heroes who fought in armies, partisan groups, and underground organizations, all did battle against the Nazis during the Second World War, and as such you are a wonderful example for our IDF soldiers today, and indeed for all Israeli citizens.

“I would like now to take this opportunity to salute you, and also to tell all senior citizens in Israel that we will continue to accompany you and do everything necessary for you to pass through this challenging period in health and peace,” Gantz added.

The ceremony honoring and according medals to veterans is held every five years, on behalf of the “Jewish Fighter” association, which represents those veterans who fought both in official military frameworks and in the various partisan and underground organizations during previous wars.

The first veteran fighter chosen to receive a medal this year was Avraham Michael Grizeid, aged 95, who enlisted in the Red Army in 1943 and took part in fierce battles on Polish and German soil. He currently serves as the national chair of the World War II Veterans Alliance.

The second fighter chosen to be honored was Yitzhak (Tulka) Arad, aged 94, who joined a group of Soviet partisans in the Vilnius (Vilna) region in 1943 and fought in several battles against the Germans. After immigrating to Israel he became the IDF’s Chief Education Officer and was eventually promoted to the rank of brigadier-general, before serving as chairman of the Yad Vashem board until 1993.

The third fighter chosen was 95-year-old Gideon Gilboa, who volunteered for the British Army in 1942 and fought in Africa and Europe.