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The Meaning of Their Sacrifice

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not the only leader to address the Jewish state and her people on Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke at the Western Wall of his nation’s survival and faith:

We stand here this evening, together, and ask to be comforted, at the foot of the silent stones before us. Stones which have for thousands of years, absorbed the tears of our people – tears of sadness and of joy. A wall of cries of mourning and of hope…

The struggle for our existence is still not a matter of choice. Our obligation, to ourselves, our children and grandchildren, is to be sure to do everything in our power to prevent the next war. In order to clarify to our enemies, that should they choose to go to war against us, we will stand strong as we have always stood strong. Along with this, we look at the current reality and must ensure that we are doing everything in our power to be prepared and ready for the next conflict. The reality of our lives here places a great challenge before the IDF and its commanders and soldiers; the challenge of preserving professional and ethical excellence throughout the IDF, from the lowest to the highest rank. This reality places before the security forces the challenge of managing a war in between wars. A war in which, each night, our soldiers return to their bases, from nameless battles which push further into the distance the next conflict, and make us ever more ready for that next conflict.

This is our obligation to those who have fallen. We will always promise that while we will never accept this decree of fate, we are, at the same time, also ready to pay the price of our existence here. This reality which has been forced upon us must not lead us to accept the sacrifice, even if we recognize it is a necessity. Amidst this tension, we are obligated to continue to live, for the sake of our loved ones who are lost, and for our children who remain.

Dear friends, the second claim with which we are dealing today is the struggle for the essence and idea for which the State of Israel was established, and for which our sons and daughters fell. They who lived for the sake of life, to create, to be authors, poets, scientists, farmers, the best of the best of our children, laid down their lives not for us to merely survive, but for us to live. The pages of the history of the Jewish people are awash with hardships and persecution, exiles and pogroms. Just last week, we marked a day of memorial for the martyrs and heroes of the Holocaust. We were persecuted and we survived. We were expelled and we survived. They tried to eradicate us from the face of the earth, and we survived.

Yet, for the Jewish people, survival alone has never sufficed and should never suffice. The DNA of this nation is one of faith and creativity. We insist on survival because we believe in life. Because we believe in a vision of being a free nation, a society that brings together tradition and innovation. A society that finds creativity in its contrasts and contradictions. A society that educates its children about love for their fellow man, and about shared responsibility alongside a drive to succeed. A society that does not compromise on the realization of its values, even in the face of a difficult and complex reality.

From the ashes we have risen. Over the graves of our children, siblings, parents and friends we have risen from misery and despair to have hope and faith. This hope and faith is what leads us on our path.

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