Bereaved families call for ministers to stay away from Memorial Day events – report


Thousands of bereaved military families have asked ministers to stay away from Remembrance Day ceremonies amid concerns that the events could be used for political purposes, public broadcaster Kan reported on Friday.

According to the report, the families have applied to Yad Labanim, Israel’s largest bereaved family organization, citing concerns about possible speeches and protests for and against the judicial reform.

Eli Ben-Shem, chairman of the organization, held a meeting on the matter on Wednesday at which it was suggested that senior military commanders instead of politicians give the speeches at cemeteries.

The fallen soldiers were killed “in the same tank, at the same cavity,” Ben-Shem said, according to the report.

“We want to prevent demonstrations and splits at the cemeteries,” he said.

On Memorial Day, which is to begin in the evening of April 24, large crowds of Israelis will visit the graves of people killed in military service or in terrorist attacks.

Israeli soldiers salute in front of the graves of fallen soldiers at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on May 2, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

There are speeches from ministers in many of the ceremonies at cemeteries across the country — if the call from the families were heeded, it would be the first time they would have been prevented from speaking at the events.

A petition submitted by the opposition MK Chili Tropper (National Unity party), signed by 90 legislators from both the government and the opposition, called for Remembrance Day to be left out of politics.

Tropper’s letter called on “all factions” of the Knesset and “all Israeli communities” to “stop the debate in the cemeteries” and “leave Memorial Day out of the debate.”

Among the signatories of the document were Opposition leader Yair Lapid, National Union party leader Benny Gantz, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Justice Minister Yair Levin and MKs Simcha Rothman, Avigdor Liberman and others, the Walla news site said.

A ceremony commemorating Memorial Day for fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terrorism, at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, on May 3, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Transport Minister Miri Regev, however, refused to sign unless the scope of the petition was extended to include Independence Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day as well. Likud lawmaker Regev is responsible for organizing the national ceremonies for those days.

Lapid refused to sign Regev’s extended document, saying that to do so would be to “pretend” that the current situation was acceptable.

“We will not pretend that we are celebrating together and that everything is fine while the government is tearing the people of Israel apart and destroying democracy,” Lapid said in a statement.

“We will not sit back and watch another show of shame for the Netanyahu people,” he said.

On Thursday, dozens of members of military families mourned the government’s controversial judicial overhaul outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv as part of a “national day of paralysis” declared by protest leaders.

Bereaved families protest against the government’s judicial reform, outside the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, March 23, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Gavriella Zimmerman, whose son Amir was killed in 2004, said she felt she had no choice but to protest.

“As a bereaved mother it’s hard to wave the flag, but I feel like I’m on the edge of the abyss – one little push and we’ll fall in and never come back,” she told Walla.

“This is not why Amir died, a ruined country,” she said.

Ash Obel contributed to this report.

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