Ambassador Lenk, Rabbis, Colleagues and Friends,
Thank you for being with us this evening.
For the SAZF the two events proceeding from this evening being Yom Hazikaron and to be followed by Yom Haatzmaut remain the two most important events that the SAZF is entrusted with delivering to the SA Jewish community.
A special note that I would like to make tonight is that you will notice that this evening’s memorial will differ in many aspects to the previous year’s programmes that we have been part of in remembering our fallen.
It is through the incredible efforts of our youth movements and their leadership – Bnei, Habonim, Netzer and Betar that they have for the first time taken direct responsibility for the direction and programming of this ceremony.
And it has been so invigorating to see the seriousness and commitment with which they have taken on this responsibility.
Needless to say that if we do not empower our youth with the responsibility of such an important event – we would not only be letting ourselves down but more importantly we would be letting down those that we are here this evening to honour and remember.
A further thank you to Nicci Raz and the professional staff of the SAZF together with Aviad Sela and the professional staff of the Israel Centre for their support to our young leaders.
In addressing you all this evening I am going to ask you, and to emphasise how important it is to truly internalise the magnitude of what we are gathered here for.
For many of us here in South Africa and possibly some at this ceremony, Yom Hazikaron can be an academic event.
An event that some may participate in because it is expected of us or others because it is a tradition and sadly others simply don't participate at all.
Many of us in South Africa have not experienced the direct loss of a loved one whether it be a family member or a close friend and so by extension we may struggle to relate to the depth of the pain and anguish felt by those in Israel who have.
My appeal to everyone to night is to ensure that each of us goes well beyond that and reflects on the gravity and magnitude of who we are indeed remembering and why we are remembering.
We need to ensure that not just tonight but for all time that we come to terms with the fact that the destiny of Israel and the Jews is so inextricably interwoven that there is no and can be no separation of the two – and for this reason it stands that the loss of one is a loss to us all.
Through each generation represented here tonight we have been witness to one of the greatest miracles of history and that is the re-establishment of what one could say is the third sovereign republic of the Jews in the Land of Israel.
Our dreams, prayers and yearnings of two thousand years is a stark and bold reality; and each one of us has the honour of sharing in the gift which is created by that reality - the gift of a sovereign, robust and beautiful State of Israel.
But those dreams, prayers and yearnings of two thousand years in as much as it comes as an honour and gift to us – it comes at an immeasurable expense and cost to those that live the dream in order to protect that dream.
Whether it be those that sacrificed their lives in the founding of the state under the Palmach or Irgun; or those that fell in the mighty battles of Suez, the 6 day war or Yom Kippur.
Or those that fell in Lebanon or defending against the 15,000 missiles fired from Gaza – to them we are indebted.
Whether it be the battles of Ammunition Hill, or Matla pass in the Sinai or Bint Jbel or Marajayoun in Lebanon or pushing back the divisions of tanks that stormed the Golan Heights in the Yom Kippur War.
And those that no one sees or hears and no doubt are unheard of when they do fall.
Or those taken in the streets of Haifa, the buses of Jerusalem or the restaurants and night clubs in Tel Aviv.
Each and every one of those souls we stand here tonight, we internalise and introspect and we remember them – for we are indebted to them.
But in that indebtedness lies our greatest challenge as a community. It is easy for us to demand that indebtedness but that demand is just a word. Insofar that we have said how we are as a people interwoven with Israel we need to ensure we understand what the fallen have done so for us.
Since the time of Amalek we have been told how the forces in this world time and time again conspire against us as a people - wishing to not just hurt us but to annihilate us. And as if Amalek was not just a once off an event - history has shown us time and time again that those forces will always exist for it did not end there.
After the fall of the Second Temple the pattern continued unabated for 2000 years - at the hands of the Romans it is estimated that over a million Jews were killed, it continued under the Rule of Islam, the Crusaders, the inquisition, the Pogroms, the Holocaust - in the millions our families were literally slaughtered for no other reason that we were Jewish. And still today we see those forces conspiring across the world unabated - here in South Africa in Europe and the Americas - this desire to do harm to the Jews remains rife.
But today there is one fundamental difference - we are strong - possibly stronger than any moment in our history of 3700 years! Israel is strong and Israel ability to protect her people whether in Israel or around the world is unparalleled. And Israel is strong because the IDF is strong. And we here are strong because we stand on the shoulders of those that have sacrificed their lives for us. Indeed we are indebted and lest we ever forget that.
A note I would like to make is that of the memorial that has been erected at the Embassy in Pretoria under Ambassador Lenk – a memorial long overdue which sits in the gardens of the Embassy.
There you can see the names of the 88 soldiers that made Aliya from South Africa and have fallen in the line of duty.
I would like to pay special tribute to Ambassador Lenk for doing what was long overdue.
And with all this I would like to take a moment to emphasize a vital point and that being that not only is The IDF strong while existing In the most complex neighbourhood in the world but I can assure you that the IDF remains the most honourable and value driven army in the world.
I would like to leave you with a thought and prayer tonight ... Am Yisrael Chai, Tzava Hagana L'Yisrael Chai - Israel can never and will never fall again!