In Somber Memorial Day Speech, Israel’s Bennett Calls National Unity ‘Our Duty Towards the Fallen’
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issued a plea for internal unity in a somber ceremony in Jerusalem on Tuesday commemorating the Jewish state’s fallen defenders.
Speaking at the Yad Le’Banim Memorial in honor of Yom HaZikaron, which begins Tuesday night, Bennett shared recollections of soldiers he served with during his youth who fell in combat.
“We were there in Lebanon, all together. Kibbutznikim and city-dwellers, secular and religious, from Beersheba and Tel Aviv, right-wingers and left-wingers, Jews and non-Jews,” he recounted before an audience of bereaved families and civilian and military officials. “Each one risked his life on behalf of others. We were brothers.”
“Many of the friends stayed there — young ones, aged 19 or 20. They will remain our brothers forever,” the prime minister said. “I can’t speak on their behalf, but I believe if they could, they would ask us — keep on living together. Don’t let divisions rip you from the inside.”
“We have a strong IDF, and excellent security organizations,” Bennett affirmed. “Our power is greater than the sum of our enemies.”
Yet, he cautioned, if “we allow anger and hatred to grip us, our enemies will seize the advantage to hurt us.”
Bennett, who heads a diverse governing coalition that was recently rocked by the defection of a Knesset member over ideological disagreements, expanded on the theme of national cohesion.
“Our State of Israel is the third time there is a sovereign Jewish state in the land of Israel,” he continued. “In the previous two times, we did not pass the eighth decade in peace. This is the most important lesson in out history, and I don’t tire of repeating it.”
“Our first state, in the days of David and Solomon, survived 80 years as a united and sovereign kingdom,” Bennett said. “In the 81st year, due to internal divisions, the country split in two, and we forever lost the majority of our nation, the ten [lost] tribes.”
“In the second time, during the Second Temple period, the Hasmonean kingdom existed for some 77 years as a united and sovereign state. Towards the end of the period, again an internal division occurred and Jews themselves invited the Romans inside Israel. We lost our independence and became a humiliated protectorate of the Romans.”
“And this protectorate we also lost,” the prime minister added. “What a terrible price we paid 2,000 years in the diaspora, under pogroms and humiliations and disasters, and all because we surrendered to hatred of our brothers.”
“Today, thank God, we won a third opportunity. Our State of Israel. Brothers and sisters, we won’t have another opportunity. We are now in the eighth decade of the state, the decade we’ve never before succeeded as a united nation. We have been given a chance to correct our fathers’ ancestral sin of brotherly hatred, and to get rid of the factional nature that destroyed our nation.”
“The decision is in our hands,” he told the audience. “We will deal with the argument, not the claimant. We will really listen. We will argue with each other, but we will never, never hate our brother. Above all, we will remember that we are one family. It is our duty towards the fallen. It is also our duty towards future generations.”
“From the dawn of Zionism,” Bennett said, “through the War of Independence, the wars of Israel and to this day, our best sons and daughters have fallen while guarding the existence of the State of Israel. On this day, we embrace the families who lost that which was most precious to them. Out of the sanctity of this day, out of longing for those who are not with us, we swear to preserve this home, which was their home, the home they sacrificed their lives for.”