Yad Labanim

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Speech at the Memorial Service at Ammunition Hill
Dear Friends,
Distinguished Guests,

Night is falling on the hills of Jerusalem, and the country is wrapped in silence. It is the silence of pain – and it is deep, hurting and torturous.
At this time on the eve of the Day of Remembrance, the State of Israel is gathering together in grief and joining in memory of its sons and daughters – Jews, Druze, Circassians, Bedouins and members of other sectors – who fell during Israel’s campaigns.
Great sadness is descending on the country. And it has names, faces, and it had hope for life. Each and every one of the fallen is an entire world which has been lost forever – a void which we can never fill again.
I know, this pain is, first and foremost, private, intimate, between a person and himself and between a person and his family. Even when the entire nation shares in it – the pain always remains private.
I know there are no words of comfort. And there is no way to understand what you – parents, widows, orphans, siblings and friends – feel every day of the year. Only on rare occasions do the words succeed in describing the pain of separation. Perhaps the words of the poet Yehuda Amichai, written in memory of his commander and friend, Lieutenant Chaim Laksberg (Dicky), who fell in July 1948, are such.
“Rain falls on the faces of my comrades-in-arms:
on the faces of my comrades-in-arms who live, who
cover their heads with a blanket –
and on the faces of my comrades-in-arms who are dead, who
are not covered anymore.”
The paths of the fighting are carved along the length and breadth and around the borders of this country. We never wanted them. We are a people who sanctify life, who do not seek quarrels. However, time after time, we have been forced to defend ourselves, to protect our sovereignty, to fight for our freedom. We are prepared to fight, but have no love for war. Even when we achieve our aim, we do not get carried away by happiness over victory, because the price we pay is too heavy.
In the year that has passed since the previous Remembrance Day, we embarked on a campaign on the Lebanese border. The Second Lebanon War is another link in the long and painful chain of Israeli campaigns against an enemy which has yet to come to terms with our existence. This war also carried a heavy and painful price.
May this be the last war.
May those wounded in battle and the disabled find a balm for their pain.
May we soon see the hostages returned home.
Distinguished guests,
We have always known, even in the heat of battle, to extend a hand of peace to our neighbors. And each time we were answered with a hand of peace, we put our weapons aside, in order to talk and reach agreements. However, unfortunately, time after time we were answered with calls for fighting and animosity. We are an ancient people. We were born on the land of this country thousands of years ago, and we have the strength to stay here forever. The short lives of the fallen are the ultimate testimony of this. However, we will never despair of achieving the longed-for peace.
We are aware of what is occurring across our borders, and hear also the strengthening of moderate voices. Our duty to the fallen, to the families and to all the citizens of Israel, is to make every possible effort to pave the long road which leads to the prevention of war and to peace.
Dear Families,
Night falls on Ammunition Hill, and all across the country the wind stirs the flags which fly at half mast. The sounds of flapping cloth are close and painful. Even when the flag is raised again to full mast and we celebrate Independence Day, we will not forget the images, the valor and the sacrifice of the fallen.
The State of Israel bows its head in sorrow.
May their memories be blessed.