PM Netanyahu’s Speech at the Memorial Ceremony for Fallen Soldiers at Ammunition Hill
Forty-three years ago, this hill, Ammunition Hill, symbolized a wounded city, a city cut in half, and in its heart- a wall.
Today, along the outline of that same wall, there are light-rail tracks that will connect the flourishing Jerusalem neighborhoods established and built during the decades that have passed since the very day we are marking here today.
Twice we have paid the heavy cost of liberating the siege on Jerusalem–first, during the War of Independence, and again, when the city was bombed during the Six Day War.
One of the most decisive battles of that campaign was fought right here. True heroes fell here, and together with their comrades all along the frontlines, they changed the lives of our people, our country and our city.
Jerusalem, which until that time had been a divided and weakened city, became once again a city full of life, creativity and renewal.
Today, children play in the trenches of Ammunition Hill and in other former battle sites; cultural events are held in Sultan’s Pool. Today, there is a museum at the Tourgeman House, which was a fortified outpost. On the wall of that museum, between the holes left by bullets, there is something written in Hebrew, Arabic and English: “Our borders will be olive trees.”
Not one day has passed without us reaching out to our neighbors in peace. Not even one day, and we still reach out to those of our neighbors that desire peace.
Over the years, we have learned that the olive branches of peace will only be attained if we are strong and are willing to defend our country as did those who have fallen here. The fighters at Ammunition Hill and the other battles gave their lives for the revival and the security of the State of Israel.
It was not out of a lust for battle that they charged this destination and other hills, but out of faith in the justness of the cause of defending the one and only country of the Jewish people.
It was with this same belief that other fighters fell – from the fighters of Latrun during the War of Independence, to those who fell recently, Major Eliraz Peretz and Staff Sergeant Ilan Sviatkovsky who recently fell in the Gaza Strip.
They all believed in the right of the Jewish people to live in peace and security in the land of their forefathers.
I mentioned olive trees. 182 olive trees surround us on this hill. Each one of them commemorates one of the 182 sons, fathers, brothers and husbands who fell in the campaign for Jerusalem.
Every one of these trees dedicated to one of the fallen symbolizes life out of the grief.
“A staff will emerge from the stump of Yishai and a shoot will sprout from his roots.”
This is our path – the path of Judaism and of Israel, as our non-Jewish brothers also fell.
The life that grows here – in Jerusalem and in the entire State of Israel – is both a duty and an edict that we repay to the fallen on a daily basis. It is the ancient decree to establish a country here whose magnificence will last for generations, a country that through its very existence and the building of its future justifies the painful sacrifice.
My brothers and sisters, members of the bereaved families, I am very familiar with the grief, pain and the feeling of loss that despite all attempts to do so, cannot be assuaged.
I have felt this loss in my heart and seen the scars it left on my late mother, on my father (may he have a long life) and on my brother.
I know the grief we experience every day as members of bereaved families.
My dear family gathered here today,
Independence Day and Memorial Day are an indelible part of each other. We know that the former is impossible without the latter. If only it were different.
But I know that this day is different because the entire people of Israel embrace us in their hearts: parents, siblings, wives and children of the Israeli family of bereavement.
Personally, and on behalf of the entire nation, I too embrace you and remember our loved ones.
May their souls be forever joined in the bonds of life and be in our memories forever.
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