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Monday, April 26, 2004

Remembrance Day

On the day Israel commemorates Memorial Day for its
fallen soldiers, comrades, one of them wounded in the
same attack against border police officer Yaniv Mashiah,
cry during Mashiah funeral in the Holon cementery in
Tel Aviv Monday April 26, 2004. Mashiah was killed late
Sunday by Palestinian militants
in a shooting attack
near the West Bank town of Hebron. (AP Photo/Yossi Aloni)

Ariel Sharon Speaks at the Memorial Service
for Israel's Fallen Soldiers

Dear Families,

Soon darkness will fall, the siren will sound. The State of Israel will
unite and remember it's fallen, its heroes. It seems that on this day,
Israel's Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers, more than any other day, the
feelings of internal unity, national solidarity and our sharing in the grief
of the bereaved families is genuine and profound. The gates of our hearts
open on this one day in humility, pain and eternal gratitude.

For you as well, members of bereaved families, Remembrance Day is not like
other days, although all your days and nights are filled with memories and
sorrow. On this one day, more than any other day, you are enveloped by
feelings of fellowship and mutual destiny. More than any other time, on this
day you are not alone in your grief.

Your loved ones who fell are the beloved of the entire nation. The pennant
of heroism on which their names are engraved is the central pillar in
building the State of Israel. It is the basis for its establishment, and
since then we have leaned on it for our existence and security. Devotion,
valor and supreme sacrifice are not slogans or figures of speech. Whoever
led warriors in the most difficult of battles, whoever saw them charge in
the face of heavy bombardment, whoever watched them overcome obstacles over
water and landmine fields under lethal shelling, whoever felt their pain
over a fallen comrade and saw them wipe away a tear and go on, dress their
wounds and return to the line of battle - whoever was witness to all this
will cherish the soldiers and commanders, the warrior spirit, until their
dying day.

The following lines by Natan Alterman about warriors at the end of a battle
depict this reality:
".. tired to no end, denied of repose --
wearers of grit and gear and heavy shoes ---
they did not change clothes, did not clean with water yet
the tracks of the day of hard labor and the night of the front line.."

We will lower our flags in their honor today, and you, our sisters and
brothers from the bereaved families, we embrace with love, and we will
strengthen your hands to help you bear your burden of sorrow. We will work
and do all we can to be worthy of the pure virtue of the sacrifice made by
the fallen, in order to establish our society on the foundation of equality
and justice, and so that we can imbue our homes and borders with security
and peace.

We will not wait and we will not delay, we will not allow others to
determine our destiny. We will take the initiative and stride determinedly
and courageously forward, and will mold, with our own hands, a reality which
will coincide with the security and political interests which are so important to
us, and with our profound desire for peace. It is our duty to know we have
done everything so that the rows of headstones will not get any longer, so
that the beautiful among the flowers of our lives will no longer be plucked in
their prime.

May the memory of the fallen be engraved in our hearts
and the eternity of Israel.
From Naomi Ragen

On the radio, I heard a bereaved mother talking about the importance of memorial day. "For one day the whole country feels like I feel every day." It was important for people to call, to enquire, to comfort. To make those suffering from loss feel surrounded by a cocoon of warmth and love and solidarity, she said.

That is so hard, I thought. Because the last thing in the world you want to do is intrude on someone's private grief. But Memorial Day makes that grief public, giving all of us a chance to say: We live because your son, your daughter, your father, your brother, your sister gave their lives to guard and protect us. Our country continues to function because your grandmother, your little girl, took a bus, bought a pizza, sat in a park, and in so doing, lost
their lives to those who wish to take our country away from us. Too cowardly to fight our soldiers, they fight our old people, our babies.

When Memorial Day is over, we will dry our tears. We will go out into the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, our hearts still heavy with cumulative grief, and watch the fireworks. And little by little, we will start to smile again, to celebrate that our little country--our little miracle-- is 56 years old. And that, despite everything, we love her and wish her well and would give anything --anything--to protect and nurture her and her people, the bravest and most compassionate people in the world.

Happy Birthday Israel. God Bless the Jewish people, the People of Israel.
May He heal our wounds, and dry the tears from all faces.