Full Transcript: Israeli President Peres Remarks for Israel’s Remembrance Day
Below is the full transcript of Israeli President Shimon Peres’s remarks at the opening commemoration ceremony of Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism, 2014.
“On my way here I felt the lights settle over Jerusalem. The busy life of the city slowing in pace, and converging in on itself. 67 years ago the United Nations declared the establishment of a Jewish state. But it wasn’t a declaration that founded this wonderful country. It was founded upon the blood of its sons and daughters, upon the sweat of the pioneers and the vision of its prophets. Israel today is a strong country, a miracle in the eyes of the Jews, a wonder in the eyes of the world. We, the Israelis, are not like any other people. For a generation already the sadness does not release us, even for joy. Our joy is always incomplete. A cloud of sadness envelops us. It is hidden deeply but stares out of our eyes.
We accompanied our children when they came to the world, we were with them on their first day at kindergarten, we took them to class on their first day in first grade and we took them to enlist in the army, we walked beside them on their wedding day and to their first home. Suddenly lives were cut short and then the cloud does not disperse, it carries the image of the soldiers who fell in Israel’s battles. Even at the greatest celebrations we feel a stab in our heart: How won’t they be at the birth? Why won’t they hold hands on the way to school? How is it that they won’t be a part of raising the children? Why did all their friends grow up, studied, get married, start families – but my son, my daughter, my brother, my husband will remain forever as we saw them at the moment before parting. Each word is a will and testament left behind. To be as moral as the ten commandments. To be courageous and heroic. To be a constructive and enlightened society. To be a free and democratic state. To be a nation seeking peace. Many of them did not build a house. Did not have the opportunity to plant a tree. Did not fully taste love. They left you behind, the bereaved families, to cry for them. And they left us, friends, to feel pain but to remember and to remind. We will not minimize what we have achieved, a unique country with a spirit of strength. We will not let go of the memories of all that we have lost.
Writers who will write no more, poets, scientists, soldiers, farmers, carpenters and ironmongers. Wonderful people, dedicated citizens, original creators who will no longer experience life and our nation will not benefit from their contribution. We speak here in plurals, ‘we lost’, ‘we dreamt’, ‘we wanted’ but first and foremost dear families, it is your pain. The individual loss. The individual pain. The personal grief. We can only embrace, respect and remember. Knowing that we are a people without a choice. To fight or to die. It is because of them that we are.
We are mute in front of you. Before the heavy sense of bereavement. There are no words that can express your pain while we know that nothing in your life can be similar to before that hesitant knock at the door. What can we say before you? Be strong? You are strong. Can we comfort you? There is no comfort. We are silent but we know that without them we would not be standing here today. As a proud president I may say that without the bravery and courage of your children, your husbands and wives, your brothers and sisters, we would not have a country. We are a nation small in size but great in courage. I know that the longing tears you apart. And sometimes you ask what is left in your life when your loved one is taken from you? What you would give to hear their footsteps again, the routine phone call asking ‘how are you?’ and the ending of ‘look after yourself’. Left unanswered.
My sisters and brothers, as one who was involved in the building of the state, part of its pain and its achievements I ask, despite the pain, be proud of this wonderful creation called the State of Israel. Of the warriors and builders who created the country which is a wonder to the world. Of this state which is a runway to a greater future for the next generation. Of the IDF, our beloved army. We still live by the sword but seek peace with all our hears. The battle is not over, we have not reached our goals.
From my advanced years I am convinced that our spirits have never broken. To our neighbors we offer a true partnership and a new life, where trees bearing fruit will replace arrows inflicting agony. I am sure that we will all live to see those days. The State of Israel will remember its loved ones, the best of its daughters and sons, the fighters of Israel from across Israeli society; Jews and non-Jews, Druze, Bedouins, Christians and Circassians. Bold in spirit and pure in heart, who fell for our defense and our independence. The nation will remember them with love and gratitude so that we are appropriately prepared to celebrate our Independence Day, with a clear recognition of the weight of the price.
We cherish the State of Israel with the same intensity as the immeasurable sacrifice which you carry with tears and sacrifice. God bless and remember the fallen of Israel’s battles who are etched in the hearts of all of Israel from generation to generation.”