Alon Bakal z”l was murdered on 1 January 2016 – New Year’s Day – in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian terrorist who opened fire on the bar he was managing.
It was on Yom Hazikaron in the previous year that Alon wrote on his Facebook page:
“23,320 is the unfathomable number of those heroes and heroines who gave their lives so we could live here… Let it be that by next Yom Hazikaron, not one name is added to the list of heroes that is already too long. This is the time to stand up, to salute, and to remember them all”.
Alon could never have imagined the heartbreaking reality that not only would the long list of heroes grow in the year to come, but that his own name would be added to the list of victims of terror.
In itself, this bitter irony encapsulates the unbearable sadness that is Yom Hazikaron – Israel’s remembrance day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror. The fact is that we are not commemorating a war, or wars, that happened long ago and are becoming fading memories but rather, that instead we are commemorating an ongoing war against an enemy that simply refuses to let up, an enemy that does not fight using a conventional “rule-book” for warfare, and an enemy that refuses to accept the responsibility of attempting to make peace through diplomatic means.
Dafna Meir was a mother, a wife and a nurse. She was murdered in the doorway to her house in front of her children.
Yanai Weissman was a new father, a husband and a soldier. He was murdered while off-duty in a supermarket with his wife and baby daughter in another aisle.
Eitam and Na’ama Henkin were murdered in their car in front of four of their children. Hamas, with no care for children growing up without parents, praised the attack and hailed the murderers as “heroic”.
Aharon Benita-Bennett, also a father and a husband was stabbed to death in the Old City of Jerusalem. His wife and two-year old were wounded, but were saved by Rabbi Nehamya Lavi, who sacrificed his life when he went to assist them.
Hadar Cohen, Shlomit Krigman, Ziv Mizrahi, Hadar Buchris, Benjamin Yakubovich, Omri Levy. These are just some of the young Israelis murdered before they even had a chance to go to university, to travel the world, to fall in love and to build a home.
Ezra Schwartz and Taylor Force were American citizens visiting Israel. They were murdered in separate incidents but for the same reason – the terrorists thought they were Jews.
However, the terrorism that the world is facing today does not discriminate. We know this because Shadi Arafa, who was murdered on the same day as Ezra Schwartz and for the same senseless reason, was a Palestinian from Hebron.
As I write, I am looking at the headline in the New York Times from late 1947, which reads:
“Jerusalem torn by rioting; Arabs use knives, set fires; Jews reply; Haganah in open”
Underneath the headline it says:
“Moslem sages ask Holy War as duty to bar Palestine split”
That was 1947, when Israel did not “occupy” land claimed by the Palestinians. Then, as now, Israel did not seek to prevent Muslims from worshipping in their holy places. Then, as now, much of the violence was generated as a result of the spread of hatred and misinformation against the Jewish population by the Arab leadership of the time.
And yet, in continuance of this ongoing war to deprive Jews of their right to national self-determination as proscribed by the United Nations in 1947 which also gave the Arabs in the region the same right to nationhood, the wave of terror continues and the list of victims grows.
In the past year we have seen the same incitement to violence that we saw before the modern Jewish State was re-established emanating again from political and religious leadership with false claims about changes to the status of the Temple Mount and leading to lethal attacks on Israel’s population by way of car-rammings, random stabbings and shootings by terrorists.
And ironically, at a time when terrorist violence rears its head in many places across the planet killing thousands of innocents, we have world leaders who chose to ignore it only one place on earth, or if they do pay it acknowledgement, they attribute the madness to “human nature”, blaming the victims. Old men and women, mothers, fathers… and children.
Yom Hazikaron always fall on the eve of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. It is done in this way because we cannot celebrate Israel’s independence and ongoing freedom without paying tribute to those who lost their lives in attempt to fulfil that dream. On this Yom Hazikaron, I ask you to remember the 23,447 brave men and women who gave their lives fighting for Israel’s independence and her continued existence.