‘We cannot cry together’: President Rivlin delivers Memorial Day address at Western Wall

“This year, we cannot cry together, this year we cannot look each other in the eye,” said the Israeli president at a Memorial Day event in Jerusalem nearly devoid of spectators due to the corona pandemic.

By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News

On Monday evening, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin opened the official Memorial Day ceremony at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, referencing the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on this year’s observance of Yom Hazikaron.

“This year, we cannot cry together, this year we cannot look each other in the eye,” said Rivlin. “We will remember and be reminded, and we will feel fully, even this year, the inconceivable price we must pay.”

While Israel has begun to ease regulations related to the coronavirus, which has infected over 15,000 residents and taken the life of over 200, the government left in place tight restrictions on Memorial Day, which is observed on Monday evening and Tuesday this year, to prevent large gatherings.

The restrictions will remain in effect on Independence Day, which starts on Tuesday evening and lasts through Wednesday, time when Israelis generally enjoy large festive gatherings and national ceremonies attract huge crowds.

In the run up to Memorial Day, on which fallen soldiers and terror victims are mourned, many Israelis were outraged by announcements that cemeteries would be closed to the public and public events would be held without spectators.

On Monday evening at the Western Wall, Rivlin spoke in front of the military chief of staff and a handful of face-mask clad participants, instead of rows of mourning families and foreign dignitaries.

Rivlin quoted Israeli poet and actor Avraham Chalfi, intoning, “I drew myself the kingdom of heaven. … It’s sad without them in the rooms, where they left their voices echoing.”

Rivlin continued, “This year you are alone in rooms, listening to the echoes of their voices. We cannot come to your homes, we cannot stand beside you at the military cemeteries. We cannot embrace you, to hold you close when the siren pierces the silence, tearing at our hearts.”

Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has triumphed in eight recognized wars, defeating the Arab nations that attacked it. Israel has also fended off Palestinian intifadas, which refer to massive waves of terror attacks that included suicide bombings, stabbings, shootings, and car-ramming incidents.

Israel has lost a total of 23,816 fallen soldiers during various conflicts, with over 3,100 people killed in terror attacks.

With the corona pandemic looming large in the collective consciousness, Rivlin commented on Monday, “Now comes this disease, and it suddenly feels as if the world is turning more slowly. Being alone like this, days like these, bring to the surface what there is for all of us. But more comes up, I know, of those who are no longer [with us]. They fill even more of the space, the longing, the pain.”

“Every Israeli home will be a memorial this year to the fathers hands that held a baby up high, to the smile of the son that did not return, to the wisdom of the granddaughter who is no longer here,” said Rivlin, adding, “This year, more than ever, we will give them all life. We will all be memorial candles to the lives they lived and to the lives they will never live.”