President Reuven Rivlin is seeking a way to find the “shvil hazahav” – the golden mean – wherein everyone can find something to agree upon in Israel’s national symbols and anthem.
On Sunday, Rivlin acknowledged that the national anthem, ‘HaTikva,” stirs the hearts of the nations Jews but as such does not do the same for those in the country who were not born Jewish — and this issue must be addressed.
The president acknowledged while speaking with Jewish and Arab students at Jerusalem’s Himmelfarb High School that one “can’t expect loyal Israeli citizens who are not Jewish to say that they have ‘a Jewish spirit yearning deep in the heart’ (quoting from the lyrics on the anthem) because they are not Jews. Maybe their spirit is yearning for their country, but not as part of the Jewish People because they are not part of the Jewish People,” he acknowledged. But the dilemma is not one that is easily remedied, Rivlin said.
Rivlin made the remark in response to a question by an Arab student who asked if it was possible to change or add anything to the symbols of the state, so that Arab citizens can identify with it, and feel a part of the country.
The president deferred to Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who had accompanied him to the school along with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. “This dilemma must be solved by Israeli leaders, one of whom is sitting right next to me,” he said. “The question you are asking needs to be on the national agenda in the next generation or two. This is a dilemma we cannot ignore. It needs to be addressed by leaders, by members of Knesset who were chosen by the people,” Rivlin said.
“At this point, where we have to base the existence of the State of Israel on a Jewish State, and a democratic one, we have to hold on to and strengthen the Zionist dream which comes with and often causes friction with those citizens who are not Zionist,” he went on.
“I await the day that every Israeli citizen can identify with the State of Israel and not just the deep, important idea of the 2,000-year-old quest of the Jewish people to return to their homeland.”
The national Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen commenced on Tuesday at 8 p.m. with a nationwide minute of silence, as sirens throughout the country marked the solemn moment and flags were lowered to half mast.
The official memorial ceremony was held at the foot of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City and was attended by Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin and the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot.
The Kadish, a Jewish mourner’s prayer, was read by Ofer Cohen, bereaved father of 19-year-old Hadar Cohen, who was killed in a stabbing attack in February.
“A great nation cries over its fallen sons and daughters,” opened Rivlin. “We hate death, but we understand the heavy price you payed to protect a nation.”
“The soldiers and the commanders of the IDF stand united to defend the country, our unity is our strength,” Eizenkot said. “But unity does not mean agreement. Our commanders need to know that the entire country stands behind them and supports them even when there’s disagreement.”.
Memorial Day, or Yom Hazikaron, has been observed annually for 68 years, since the foundation of the State of Israel, and is symbolically marked the day before Israel’s Independence Day. In recent years the commemoration has been expanded to include the civilians who died as a result of political violence and terrorist attacks.
According to the Ministry of Defense, since 1860 the total number of fallen has reached 23,447 – including soldiers, policemen, civilians, and operatives of Israel’s security and intelligence bodies. The same data reveals that today there are 16,307 bereaved families in Israel.
The count starts at 1860, since it includes not only IDF soldiers, but also fallen fighters of Jewish security and defense organizations from the beginning of the Zionist movement. Organizations such as HaShomer, active during the time of the Ottoman Empire, and the Hagana, active during the British Mandate and up to the 1948 War of Independence, when the IDF was formed.
According to data from the Israeli National Insurance institute, 2,576 civilians have been killed during Israel’s wars and in terrorist attacks since the end of the 1948 War.
According to the IDF, 68 individuals have joined the list of Israel’s fallen in the past year alone. The Magen David Adom counts over 20 civilians killed in the recent wave of terrorism, which included 106 stabbing attacks, 25 car-rammings, 22 shootings, and one bombing of a public bus.
Eizenkot made a direct reference to the recent escalation in terrorism and its effect on the Israeli homefront, saying that “terrorism has raised its head again over the past year, and today both Israel’s security agencies and its civilians are forced to stand against it.”
Rivlin mentioned several victims of terror by name, including ”Hussein Ali, who will not attend his own wedding, and Hadar, the watcher on the walls of Jerusalem who was no more then a young girl when she was killed, and more.”
The Memorial Day for the Fallen in Israel’s Wars began Tuesday afternoon with a ceremony at the Yad LaBanim Memorial in Jerusalem, in honor of the 23,447 who have died in Israel’s wars since 1860. 2,576 Israeli civilians have perished in hostilities since 1948. Prime Minister Netanyahu opened the day saying, “The national reconciliation is born by our shared destiny, and there is no deeper and nobler expression of this shared destiny than this day.”
Hundreds, including Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, participated on Tuesday night in the ceremony in honor of Memorial Day and the lighting of the memorial candle at the Western Wall plaza. The ceremony commenced following a country-wide siren marking a minute of silence at 8 PM.
President Rivlin told the assembled at the Western Wall that “over the past year we didn’t get to be together much. We dug in, each in the righteousness of our path — we’ve had disagreements. Naturally they are hard and piercing and they have to do with the essence of our life here. But the IDF is not only everybody’s army, it is everybody. The cover of loss is over all of us with blood curdling accuracy — the same pain, the same longing, the same shared destiny. The red marks prick equally in Negba and in Tel Aviv, Kiryat Arba and Marar, Sderot, Jerusalem, Yeruham, and Shlomi. We have to remember: the IDF does not navigate the ship. The IDF is doing all it can, in the best and most professional possible way, to make sure the ship can navigate its own path safely and reach its destinations. Our faith in the IDF and its commanders is our faith in ourselves. It is our faith in our strength, in standing before our losses, your losses, in the righteousness of our way.”
Maj. Gen. Eizenkot said at the ceremony that the unity of the nation “is the foundation of the Israel Defense Forces, and it shapes it as the nation’s army, as a state army.” He added that the IDF commanders and soldiers must be certain “without the shadow of a doubt, that the entire nation supports them and stands behind them, even when there are disagreements. Unity does not necessarily mean agreement, but we mustn’t allow these gaps to damage the unity of our goal. The faith of the people in the IDF is crucial to the accomplishment of our task: protecting the state, securing its existence, and if needed — victory in war.”
At 9:15 PM, the Knesset held the event “Singing in their memory,” in the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the Knesset Speaker, Minister of Defense, the Deputy Chief of Staff, and the chief of police.
On Wednesday morning a second, 2-minute siren will be sounded, at 11 AM, followed by the State Memorial Ceremony for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers at Mount Herzl, with the president, the prime minister and the chief of staff. At the same time many local ceremonies will be conducted in cemeteries throughout Israel, including the military cemetery in Kiryat Shaul, Tel Aviv, where Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will speak. On Wednesday evening there will be a ceremony of lighting torches on Mt. Herzl, which will mark the end of Memorial Day and the start of the 68th Independence Day festivities.
Following is the address by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the eve (4 May) of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day:
Distinguished President, Reuven Rivlin, and his wife,
Distinguished guests, and first and foremost our brothers and sisters, the Holocaust survivors who lit the torches of remembrance and hope,
You moved me. My wife and I met with you in my office yesterday. You spoke from your hearts; you told us how you maintained your humanity in the most inhuman conditions; you told us how you held on to life; and how you created a new life here in Israel. It is our duty to ensure that you and all of the Holocaust survivors continue to live your lives in comfort and dignity.
Mr. President, what you said is true. We did not do enough over the years, but in the last few years we have added resources for this and we will continue to do so for one simple reason – because you deserve it. It is your right, not an act of charity. It is a debt owed to you by the State of Israel, and we will pay this debt.
A distinct message came up in our meeting. The tragedy that befell our people must never happen again. Today, in our eternal capital Jerusalem, I reiterate the commitment: There will never be another Holocaust.
What paved the way for the Holocaust? What oiled the wheels of the Nazi death machine? The answer is the lie. Nazi propaganda portrayed the Jews as the source of all evil in the world, poisoners of wells, parasites, the enemies of humanity. The defamation preceded the extermination. The Nazi regime in Germany was defeated 71 years ago, yet anti-Semitism and the lies did not die along with Hitler in his bunker. Because today, millions of people in the Muslim world read and hear horrendous fabrications about the Jewish people. They are told that Jews are the offspring of apes and pigs. They are told that Jews – and I quote – “drink the blood of their enemies in goblets.” These and other lies are spreading in social media, through means of dissemination that Hitler and Goebbels could not have even imagined.
This incitement stems from radical Islam and the Arab world, but in recent years it is joined by no less venomous incitement from the Western world. British members of parliament, Swedish high-ranking officials, French public opinion makers. I have to say that anti-Semitism today is a peculiar matchmaker –the elites who supposedly represent human progress have joined forces with the most sinister, barbaric fanatics on earth who behead people, oppress women, persecute LGBTs, destroy cultural treasures. They have teamed up to propagate the anti-Semitic virus against one target – us, against the State of Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East which upholds values of progress and human dignity.
Their hostility towards Israel has long exceeded legitimate criticism, if that ever existed. This is the total rejection of a state for the Jewish people. While throughout history the anti-Semites depicted Jews as the enemies of humanity, they now present the Jewish state as the enemy of humanity. This lie has no limits.
Only two weeks ago, the UN’s UNESCO agency – and you have to hear this to believe that these things were said – the UNESCO agency resolved that the Temple Mount, Mount Moriah, is in no way linked to the Jewish people. Pay attention to what is happening here. A global organization responsible for preserving history is offhandedly rewriting a basic fact of human history. This is willful ignorance. Even worse – it is an addiction to a lie and its dissemination around the world until it is accepted as fact. This is precisely how Jew haters have acted throughout the ages.
Today they cloak the root cause of the conflict between us and the Palestinian – the refusal to recognize the State of Israel in any borders. They justify the worst violence against us. They say we are responsible for the terrorist attack in Paris. They perceive the victim as the aggressor and the aggressor as the victim.
The Nazis said that the Jews were to blame for everything. Present-day anti-Semites say that Israel is to blame for everything. Many of the fathers of Zionism believed that the source of this perverse hatred of the Jews is our people’s unique circumstance whereby we were homeless and dispersed among the nations. They hoped, and many of them believed, that if the Jews had a state of their own, this hatred towards them would pass from the world.
Distinguished guests, regrettably reality demonstrates that this optimistic assumption of the fathers of Zionism was clearly mistaken. There were those who once thought that Zionism was the cure for anti-Semitism, and today there are those who believe that Zionism is the reason for anti-Semitism. They are also wrong.
The hatred of Jews draws on many and ancient sources, and it will not pass from the world easily. We must do three things to fight it: fight the lie, boost our strength and build our country. There is only one way to fight a lie, and that is to disprove the falsehood and spread the truth. Truth means insisting on historical facts starting with the deep attachment of our people to our country. Truth means denunciating the double standard applied to the State of Israel and only to the State of Israel. We must mobilize to spread the truth with the same fervor as our enemies mobilize to spread the lie.
We must all join this battle. And here is another fact: in today’s virtual world, it is easy to use the most advanced technology to spread the most ancient hatred. But the same technology can be used to spread the truth too, and this technology can be found in the pockets of each and every one of you. All of you have the electronic device needed to spread the truth in your pockets and in your homes. Many Jews are already doing this in Israel and around the world, and I call on you, members of modern humanity, to join us in our efforts to ward off the lies. Because, as Herzl predicted and as the rise of Nazism proved, anti-Semitism is disastrous for the Jews, but will eventually wreak havoc on all humanity, and therefore we must all fight it.
While we fight for the truth, we must also continue to build our defenses. Because even if we cannot eradicate this hatred of the Jews, we can curb the murderous attacks on us, and to this end we are diligently enhancing our military might. For many generations we were like a driven leaf, powerless, defenseless, but that is no longer the case.
The IDF is one of the strongest armies in the world, not only because of the tanks, planes, submarines and cyber, but largely because of the courage of our soldiers. Here they stand before us, and with them, standing shoulder to shoulder are all of our defense forces – the police, the Shin Bet, Mossad. They are inspired by the Jews who fought the Nazis in the allied forces, in the ghettoes, the camps and the woods.
We have learned the lesson. We do not ignore those who call for our destruction and we are not deterred by them. There are those who choose to overlook the intentions of Iran, who etches on its missiles “Israel must be wiped out,” and holds Holocaust-denial contests. These days they have a Holocaust-denial cartoon competition. Is there anything more depraved than that? We do not ignore this. Some are willing to accept Iran having nuclear weapons, but we do not and will not. Anyone planning our annihilation should know that the State of Israel is very strong. We have strong defense, offence and deterrence capabilities. The bitter enemy will no longer dwell securely; Yehudah will now dwell securely. In addition to refuting the lies and augmenting our strength we must continue to build our country, and we continue to develop Israel by leaps and bounds.
In the 68 years of Israel’s independence, Israel’s population has multiplied by ten and its economy by one hundred. We have absorbed millions of immigrants from 70 Diaspora communities. We are laying foundations, putting down tracks, breaking new frontiers in science, technology, culture, art, in every field. Israel is the definitive testament to the creative spirit and the life that beats in the hearts of the Jews. We all draw inspiration from this spirit that exists in you, the Holocaust survivors. You, who witnessed the Nazi horrors, are living testaments of the light that broke through the cracks of the darkness of death. Your grandchildren and great-grandchildren walk among us tall and proud, and like you, contribute to the country’s security, development and prosperity.
The prophet Isaiah promised to give unto the mourners of Zion splendor instead of ashes. And that is the essence of Israel’s rebirth – splendor instead of ashes. More than anything else, the flourishing State of Israel signifies the triumph of light over darkness, life over death and truth over lies.
Jerusalem (TPS) – President Reuven Rivlin said that the Holocaust is central to Israel’s identity and vowed to combat the “chronic disease” of anti-Semitism on Wednesday night during the official ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.
“The Holocaust, whether we like it or not, has become a factor in shaping the standards of our understanding of ourselves, of understanding our relationship with other nations, and our role in the world,” Rivlin said. “The Holocaust places the Jewish people before basic principles, as a people and as a nation gazing inward at ourselves and outward toward all of humanity.”
Rivlin stressed, however, that the founding of the State of Israel was no redress for the Holocaust.
“The State of Israel is not, under any circumstances, compensation for the Holocaust,” he said. “However, the Holocaust put into perspective the necessity and crucial need of the Jewish people to return to its historical roots, as a nation that takes its fate in its hands.”
Rivlin emphasized that Israel not only allows the Jewish people to take control of its own destiny, but also allows it to defend itself as a collective against the continuing phenomenon of anti-Semitism.
“Anti-Semitism and the persecution of the Jews are not a fad, or something that can be taken lightly,” Rivlin noted. “It is a difficult, chronic disease that penetrates deep into the heart and history of nations.”
“The State of Israel will deal with this anti-Semitism by ensuring, first and foremost, a national home and a Jewish army that protects the nation of survival,” added Rivlin. “We are a nation that has survived and will continue to survive thanks to our resilience and strong spirit.”
Rivlin also addressed the Holocaust survivors attending the ceremony, asking for their help in extracting the meaning of the tragedy and lessons to be learned.
“These are the years in which we should take the opportunity to try to clarify along with you how you want to shape the memory of the Holocaust and its lessons for future generations,” he said. “The number which was tattooed onto your flesh is etched into the hearts of this nation for generations and has become the living will of the Jewish people.”
President Reuven Rivlin is facing a politically delicate situation when he soon will be forced to decide whether or not to grant clemency to former president Moshe Katzav, currently serving a prison term for rape and other sexual offenses.
The president’s office issued a statement Sunday saying no formal request has yet been received, but that if and when it is, the president will give the request the same due consideration he gives all such requests, and will consult with all the relevant authorities.
Katzav has never acknowledged his guilt despite his conviction on the charges, nor has he ever expressed remorse.
The parole board committee stated at the time, “The prisoner views himself as a victim. He is blaming external factors for his situation, still conducting himself in an aggressive manner and is self-centered, focusing on his own needs and losses and on the price he and his family have paid.
“Even in response to our questions, the prisoner did not show regret or empathy for his victims, and continued to mention the heavy price he paid and continues to pay.”
He is serving a seven-year sentence after his conviction in 2010 on charges of rape, sexual harassment and indecent assault.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow Thursday morning for a quick pre-Passover meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
According to the prime minister’s office, on the agenda were advanced weapons sales to Iran, and the situation in Syria, continued coordination between the military forces of the two nations in Syria, a discussion about the peace efforts in the country, and prevention of advanced weapons access for the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group.
During his visit to Moscow last month, President Reuven Rivlin asked Putin to help re-establish the presence in the Golan Heights, between Israel and Syria, of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. The reason: a developing vacuum is making it easier for Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies to infiltrate the former no-man’s-land and set up a base for attacks against the Jewish State.
Rivlin told Putin that such activity was a red line for Israel, according to Channel 2 news. Putin extended an invitation to Netanyahu to visit Moscow during that visit with Rivlin.
Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin, born in Ukraine, accompanied the prime minister. Other members of the delegation included Israel Air Force Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, National Security Council Director Avriel Bar Yosef, Military Secretary to the Prime Minister Col. Eliezer Toledano and the head of the Prime Minister’s Office.