JERUSALEM (JTA) — During a national Memorial Day ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled two members of his army unit who died before his eyes.
Netanyahu also described how his mother dealt with the loss of his brother, Yoni, who died while leading the 1976 operation to free Israeli hostages of a hijacked Air France plane at Entebbe Airport in Uganda.
"We are a nation that seeks peace and prays for peace. One hand is outstretched to our neighbors who wish for peace, and the other holds the sword of David in order to defend our people from those who wish harm upon us," Netanyahu said Monday morning at the Mount Herzl military cemetery following a two-minute siren that brought the nation to a halt to remember its fallen soldiers and victims of terror.
Memorial ceremonies were held Monday at 43 military cemeteries throughout Israel.
President Shimon Peres addressed bereaved families "with silent lips and tearful eyes" on Sunday night at the start of Memorial Day.
"Israel’s strength springs from the strength of its faith, and its greatness emanates from the heroism of its sons," Peres said during Sunday night’s national ceremony at the Western Wall. "Today we grieve for their loss and are blessed by their legacy."
Peres also referred to the threat from Iran.
"There are still those who wish to annihilate us. And at their head, the autocratic Iranian regime that seeks to cast its rule over the Middle East, silence it with lethal weapons, and launch an anti-Israel incitement campaign to deflect Arab concerns," he said. "On no account must we disregard these threats. Nor should our enemies belittle our capabilities."
Ahead of Israel’s Memorial Day observance, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced plans to build a national memorial hall to the nation’s fallen soldiers.
The hall at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem will list the names of the fallen soldiers and terror victims, which currently number 22,682, Barak said Sunday afternoon.
Memorial Day ends Monday evening with the start of Israel Independence Day.