Rivlin says goodbye
Rivlin says goodbyeMark Neyman/GPO

The organizations representing bereaved families who lost loved ones to terrorism said goodbye to President Reuven Rivlin yesterday as his term in offices comes to a close.

The families, commemoration and legacy division of the ministry of defense, headed by Aryeh Mualem, chair of the IDF Widows’ and Orphans Organization Tami Shelach, chair of Yad Labanim Eli Ben Shem and representatives of the bereaved families held a farewell meeting yesterday, Sunday May 24 / 12 Sivan, with President of Israel Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin. The event was held at Beit Yad Labanim in Ramat Hasharon.

“The families, commemoration and legacy division is an expression of the deep moral debt we owe the fallen and their families. You accompany them in their grief, all year and over the years, help them bear the mountain of grief. Easing, perhaps by a little, the heavy, daily burden of loss,” said the president. “Just now, during Operation Defenders of the Wall, the family of loss has grown again. It is a family that nobody asked to join, and nobody would choose to be a part of. And your hands are full,picking up the pieces, offering a consoling embrace.”

“Seven years ago, during Operation Protective Edge, I began my term as President of the State of Israel, an emissary of the Israeli people. My ‘baptism of fire’ was my visits to the bereaved families. Then, I understood how much consolation there is in memory and memorial and connection – the links that we the Israeli people make with the bereaved families. Together with you, I had the privilege of inaugurating the Hall of Remembrance to the Fallen of Israel’s Wars at Har Herzl. It is a place that combines personal and collective remembrance. It is a place of eternity, where we remember and memorialize everyone. My dears, at the beginning of my presidency, I took a vow to honor the memories of the fallen and to be the soldier of the bereaved families. To be your soldier. I did the best I could to keep my promise. I will continue to be your soldier in the future, too. At this moment of parting, I hug every bereaved family – parents, partners, orphans and siblings – and pray that this family will be as small as possible. I pray that your hands will always reach out to those who need them. May the memory of our sons and daughters be forever engraved in the heart of the nation, from generation to generation,” said the president at the end of his remarks.

Chair of Yad Labanim Eli Ben Shem thanked the president and said, “We have taken leave of many prime ministers and presidents. I have never been so moved. We are sure that you will always answer the call when we turn to you. I will never forget how, as Speaker of the Knesset, we brought a new Torah scroll to Tiberias. We called you two days before and you made sure to be there. I will never forget that not a single government representative came to the memorial ceremony for the fallen of the Yom Kippur War. Beit HaNasi called to say that the president had cancelled all his meetings and you were there at 11:00. Since then, you have never missed a memorial ceremony. We salute you, embrace you and love you.”

Chair of the IDF Widows’ and Orphans’ Association Tami Shelach: “I think that any attempt to sum up your public service is doomed to failure. The fruits of your work will not end or disappear when you leave the presidency. We are not only taking leave of you, but from a period of the history of the State of Israel. The annual meeting with you, the Bar and Batmitzvah event for IDF orphans, was full of humanity, warmth and love, with a handshake and a hug for every one of the children. It was a special experience that gave strength that will be with the orphans and widows forever. We are blessed to have had a president like you. Looking ahead, the legacy of your presidency will continue to be felt every day, your openhearted work and protection of respectful discourse, based on values and ethics. We love you very much.”

Head of the ministry of defense’s families, commemoration and legacy division Aryeh Mualem embraced the president warmly and said, “At the end of every meeting with you I received a phone call with what the families needed from us, a tablet for parents who are hard of hearing, a Torah scroll, help with orphans who were over 30 years old. You were by our side the whole way. Like the mezuzah you fixed at the Hall of Remembrance, like the Torah scrolls we put at the Western Wall.”