We join with Israelis and supporters of Israel around the world today as we commemorate Yom HaZikaron — Israeli Memorial Day — and honor the sacrifice of those who have fought for Israel and those who have fallen victim to acts of terror and hate.
This evening, across Israel, people stand in silence and solidarity to remember, honor and thank those who gave their lives for their country. For thousands of Israelis, this is no abstract memorial — they grieve for the absence of a parent, the lost smile of a son, the unfulfilled ambitions of a sister.
As we feel the pain of loss and grief, we remember that the ongoing conflict continues to take a terrible toll on both Israelis and Palestinians. We see this, movingly, in the joint memorial service which brings together Israelis and Palestinians as they remember family members who have fallen victim to the conflict. As we look ahead, we must recommit ourselves to doing everything we can to working toward a better future, a future in which no child on either side need live in peril and fear.
Since David Ben-Gurion’s declaration of independence in 1948, generations of Israelis have fought valiantly, time and again, to keep their country secure and their people safe. As we remember and honor their struggles, which continue today, we also recognize that some of the largest challenges facing contemporary Israel cannot be resolved by military force, but only through strong diplomacy, political will and the pursuit of lasting peace.
Tomorrow evening, we will move from a day of mourning and solemnity to one of celebration. On Yom Ha’atzmaut — Israel’s Independence Day — we proudly celebrate and marvel at the incredible achievements of a small nation borne amidst struggle and founded upon the values of equality, justice and peace. From a fledgling country few expected to survive, Israel has built a strong, prosperous and vibrant nation, with a record of technological and cultural achievement that is a source of pride to J Street and to Jews around the world.
As we celebrate Israel and recall the egalitarian vision and values set down in its Declaration of Independence, we remind ourselves that the institutions and ideals of liberal democracy are not guaranteed to last forever. Supporters of Israel in the US and around the world must do all we can to aid our Israeli partners who are working to preserve and defend these Jewish and democratic values — their work stands in contrast to those who instead wish to advance an agenda of division, intolerance and fear. We must channel our love and concern for Israel into meaningful action.
We stand proudly with those in Israel who are fighting to ensure that Israel can be a state for all of its citizens — regardless of religion, ethnicity, or gender — and a welcoming home for all Jewish people no matter what their background or traditions. And, recognizing that the future and well-being of both peoples are intertwined, we are determined that the Palestinian people should also be able to ultimately realize their own self-determination and independence in a state of their own, living in peace and security alongside Israel.
In this week of commemoration, celebration and hope, we wish all Israelis, and all Jewish people around the world, a meaningful Yom HaZikaron and a happy Yom Ha’atzmaut.