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Israeli leaders from coalition, opposition call to keep politics out of Memorial Day ceremonies

Politicians across the political divide call to respect ‘the sanctity of Memorial Day’

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant seen during a discussion and a vote in the Knesset assembly hall in Jerusalem, Mar. 22, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday called for Israeli ministers and Knesset members to avoid political statements on Memorial Day – set to begin at sundown on Monday, April 24. 

In a letter to the Speaker of the Knesset and the Cabinet Secretary, Gallant wrote: "I would like to ask you, in the spirit of unity, to appeal to ministers and Knesset members to express in their speeches messages that emphasize the importance of the State of Israel and highlight the value of unity, while also voicing respect and gratitude to the fallen and standing shoulder to shoulder with the mourning families who paid the ultimate price." 

Gallant called Memorial Day “sacred and sensitive” for the families of fallen soldiers. 

"Memorial Day for fallen IDF soldiers is one of the most sacred and sensitive days of the year. During these days, more than ever, we must convey a unifying message to Israeli society," Gallant wrote. 

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi echoed Gallants call in an editorial for Arutz 7. 

“Memorial Day obliges us to come together and focus on the things that connect us. We must respect the cemeteries and ensure they do not turn into places of dispute,” Halevi wrote. 

He continued, “Uniting with our fallen loved ones will not be possible in the commotion of dispute.” 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also released a video statement calling for “unity” on Memorial Day. 

“In the past few months, an important debate has been raging among us over our democracy, but during these days, I ask all elected officials, from the right and left, to put the argument aside, to leave it outside of the cemeteries,” Netanyahu said. 

Saying that “unity is the order of the hour,” Netanyahu noted that common grief and respect for the fallen allows Israel to stand united. 

“We all deserve to experience these days when the entire nation of Israel stands united, behind our heroes, without any debate. May we be worthy of the great sacrifice of our loved ones, of our heroes," he concluded. 

These calls for unity were echoes by opposition lawmakers as well. 

Knesset Member Gideon Sa’ar responded to a group that was planning to protest at a cemetery, calling on them to “preserve the sanctity of the day.” 

“Next week we will mark Memorial Day. It is very important to preserve the sanctity of this day and to keep the huge disagreement between us outside of the cemeteries because, in the end, we are obligated to honor this day and unite around the legacy and respect for the fallen of the IDF," Sa’ar said. 

Opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz agreed with the calls for unity, echoing the language of Halevi and Netanyahu. 

“We must not violate the sanctity of Memorial Day. It is a day when disputes are silenced and we make room for pain and memory,” they said in a joint statement. 

“The sanctity of the fallen and the respect we have for the bereaved family bring us together,” the statement continued. “[Standing] above the graves of our loved ones, we are all brothers.” 

Some families complained about the presence of certain politicians attending ceremonies due to their lack of service in the IDF. 

Opposition leader, MK Avigdor Liberman said Knesset members should contact the heads of ceremonies they were assigned to attend to find out if their presence is desired. 

Kan 11 news noted that some bereaved families wrote them asking that government representatives assigned to their ceremonies be accompanied by opposition members in a show of unity. 

Religious Zionism party member, MK Orit Strock said she agrees with the idea and asked for an opposition Knesset member to attend a memorial ceremony with her. 

Many families of fallen soldiers being honored in Memorial Day ceremonies have also asked that people attending ceremonies “not carry symbols of protest – no signs, no slogans, no flags.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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