The State of Israel will continue to prosper and flourish as long as we are ready to defend ourselves in every situation. I am certain that the tremendous strengths we have will allow us to successfully face every challenge until we reach safe harbor, until our region changes its character, until we reach the desired peace.
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Advisor)
The Honorable President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin,
Three months ago, on this mountain – which more than anything illustrates the cost of our national rebirth –Malka Kalangel, the mother of Major Yochai Kalangel, who was killed on the northern border, stood and cried from the depths of her heart, "How do you say goodbye to your child?" Nothing compares to the power of this cry from a mother and father who are informed of their child's death. Anyone at their side at the moment they receive the difficult news remembers it for the rest of their life. I do. "How do you say goodbye to your child?" Malka asked. "How do we say goodbye to our son?" my parents asked. "How do I say goodbye to my brother?" I asked.
Last night there was a very moving event at the Knesset, an event that shook us to our very core, during which bereaved family members described that terrible moment in their lives, the moment in which they heard the knock at the door, that same knock by those who came to tell the horrible news that would shatter their lives and change them forever. I received my knock when I was a student in the United States in the guise of a telephone call from my brother, Iddo, telling me of the death of our older brother, Yoni. It was the worst moment of my life, besides one other moment, seven hours later, after a tortuous nightlong journey, when I walked up the path leading to the house of my mother and father, who was teaching at Cornell University in New York at the time. It was my lot to be the one to break the news. I was the one knocking on my parents' door. Through the wide window in the front of the house, I could see my father pacing back and forth, lost in thought, his hands joined behind his back as was his wont. He suddenly looked up and when he saw me walking up the path, without his saying a word, his expression changed all at once. A bitter cry burst from his throat. I went into the house. As long as I breathe, I will never forget his cry and that of my dear mother. To get the knock at the door from my brother and then knock on my parents' door – it was as if Yoni had died twice.
For those of us who have been through this hell, no other moment can compare in terms of power, shock, pain and suffering, and we know that the wound never really heals.
This week I met with boys and girls who lost their fathers who were soldiers and officers in the IDF. I saw the grief on their faces, the quiet sadness they radiated. I embraced them and said a prayer in my heart that the passage of time, the force of life and the love of the people would grant them relief and joy later on.
Anyone who has experienced the torments of bereavement and the terror of war, the dead and injured, the amputation of limbs, does not seek out war. When I need to decide whether or not to send soldiers into battle, I think of each soldier and their family as if they were my son, my family. But if we have no choice, we must be ready to charge into battle in order to defend ourselves and our land.
This constant readiness is the only thing that will deter war, or when necessary decide it. This is where we can see the great change that took place in the destiny of our people since the establishment of the State of Israel. Ron Vanunu, the sister of Sergeant Ben Vanunu, who was killed in Operation Protective Edge, said it best. Ron, a high school senior, went to Poland with her school in Ashdod, and at one of the death camps where our people perished, she said, "My brother was killed defending our homeland, but when I am here, I understand that he had the privilege of fighting as part of the Israeli army and he fell while wearing his IDF uniform, wrapped in the Israeli flag." Ron will join the IDF soon and she is supposed to be posted to the Golani Battalion, in which her brother served.
I knew the fathers and the brothers, and I often meet the sons and the brothers and sisters. "I want to follow in my father's footsteps", "I am continuing my brother's path", they say. Nothing detracts from the great spirit that breathes through this nation. As with those who came before them, they feel the great and historic responsibility and the justness of our path and our struggle.
The continuum of threats to the existence of Israel requires a continuum of fights and our resilience in this fight depends on our determination, our strength, our unity. The State of Israel will continue to prosper and flourish as long as we are ready to defend ourselves in every situation. I am certain that the tremendous strengths we have will allow us to successfully face every challenge until we reach safe harbor, until our region changes its character, until we reach the desired peace. But this could be a prolonged process and in the meanwhile we grit our teeth, stiffen our upper lips and continue onwards. As one of the IDF widows said so simply and clearly last night at the moving event at the Knesset: Our enemies need to know that they will not break us, that despite the pain we will continue to defend our country, that we are staying right here.
My brothers and sisters, bereaved families, the stories of your loved ones is not only engraved on their headstones, but they are rooted in the hearts of our people. We must continue on their path together and united. It is written in Proverbs, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." This is the secret to Israel's strength. Only here are the shards transformed into one whole thing.
We are one family, Jews and our non-Jewish brothers – Druze, Muslims, Bedouin, Christians, Circassians. We are partners through bad times and good, in grief and in joy. Tonight, as the lights of the Independence torches shine forth, when the lights of the Independence torches shine on this mountain, we will feel profound gratitude for our loved ones, the heroes of the people, Israel's fallen soldiers. We will cherish the wounded, who stopped enemy attacks with their bodies and we will pray for their recovery. At the same time we will express our recognition of the good of everything we have won, of the wonder of our renaissance, of the gift of freedom, of the miracle of our rebirth.
May the memories of the fallen be forever blessed and their lives tied to the eternity of Israel.