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Sacrifice and sanctity – paying tribute to Israel’s fallen

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“Ever since Israel was established, our people have had to fight for their existence. Eight wars have been fought, 24 068 have given their lives in active duty, and more than 4 000 as victims of terrorist attacks. This year, we’re celebrating 74 years of independence. We’ve come a long way since the early days. Israel has become a leading nation in many fields.”

So said Israeli ambassador Eli Belotsercovsky. He was speaking during the Yom Hazikaron commemoration organised by the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) on 3 May at Yeshiva College, Glenhazel.

“The cost of Israel’s continued existence will be heard through the deafening silence of the buried souls we mourn tonight,” said Rowan Polovin, SAZF chairperson. “We grieve over the loss of soldiers and security forces who sacrificed their lives defending the life of our beloved state of Israel.”

He also pointed out the thousands of individual victims of terror. “[They were] mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters, Jews and non-Jews, who were needlessly murdered simply because they chose to live and thrive in the world’s only Jewish state.”

Belotsercovsky said that in spite of Israel’s achievements, the country was still “paying the terrible price of its existence. Unfortunately, our enemies refuse to accept the existence of the Jewish state and continue their attempts to destroy us. We need to defend ourselves.”

On that note, he said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was powerful “not necessarily because of sophisticated arms or advanced technologies, but because it’s a people’s army”.

Not only that, but, “The IDF is the symbol of unity between Israel and the Jews worldwide,” said Belotsercovsky. “Many young people from Jewish communities all over the world come to Israel and feel the need to contribute to its defence.”

Many South African olim had done their military service with the IDF, he said. “Unfortunately, there were 88 who fell, and 11 who were murdered by terrorists. Eli Kay, an amazing young man, was the last of the 11 killed on his way to the Western Wall on 21 November 2021.”

This year alone, 14 souls in Israel were lost to terror, said Polovin. “Five people lost their lives in the terrorist attack carried out on the evening of 29 March in Bnei Brak. This month, two childhood friends, Eytam Magini and Tomer Morad, from Kfar Saba, both 27 years old, alongside Barak Lufan, were murdered by a Palestinian terrorist while enjoying themselves in Dizengoff Street in the heart of Tel Aviv. Last week, a young Jewish man in his 20s was in a guard booth with his fiancé when the shooters opened fire. He shielded his fiancé with his body and saved her life, but unfortunately lost his.”

According to the Mishnah, one person is like a whole world. “They had families who loved them and were proud of them. Now they are gone, and nobody can fill the terrible void that they have left,” said Belotsercovsky.

The only thing we can do, Belotsercovsky said, “is hug the families, be with them, and promise them that they will never be alone. The sacrifice of their loved ones will be remembered forever.”

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