Tuesday 28 April 2009


Israel today remembers those that have lost their lives in wars and terror attacks in Israel's history. These heroes number 22,570 counted from 1860 when Jews first settled outside of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. This is an average of more than 150 lives needlessly lost each year. In these terms, the 133 new names added to this list over the past 12 months indicates that 2008/9 has been a relatively "quiet" year in the history of the State of Israel. And this, despite a war in Gaza during this period. In all, the number of those killed is equivalent to more than 3 per 1,000 citizens currently living in Israel.

Whilst it is true to acknowledge that more people have been killed on Israel's roads than in her wars, this does not diminish the significant number of lives that have been lost in the interests of defending the Jewish state and Jews around the world. Almost every family in the entire country is affected directly or indirectly by somebody who has been lost. And when we add the significantly more people who have been maimed and injured during wars and terror attacks, there can surely not be a family that is not impacted. Israel was brought to a standstill both last night and this morning when the sirens wailed in memory of those heroes who have fallen.

Some may conclude that these startling statistics are most likely to serve to demotivate people, to frighten them off the idea of living in Israel or serving to defend her borders. Whilst there is clearly a certain amount of trepidation on the part of those deciding to live in Israel, or those who are joining the IDF and their families, what is clear is that the statistics do not frighten anybody off. On the contrary, the conviction with which new immigrants arrive in Israel is remarkable. It should be borne in mind that most of these people are coming from developed countries which offer a very attractive alternative to living in Israel. And yet, each year, there are new immigrants making the decision to move to Israel.

The patriotism that is seen from the soldiers in the IDF continues to astonish me. The young men and women who are due to begin their service in the near future, are all looking forward to their opportunity to serve Israel and the Jewish nation despite the obvious dangers. During the recent operation Cast Lead in Gaza, commanders motivated soldiers entering Gaza by reminding them that their service is in the defence of the State of Israel. This was all that was required to bring out the best in our brave soldiers. At the gates of Gaza, each soldier passed and kissed a Torah scroll before embarking upon his or her mission. This was used as a reminder that the job at hand was in the defence of Jewish freedoms. These most basic and age-old symbolisms are the only requirements to motivate IDF soldiers to serve their country and their nation to the best of their ability. No statistics can detract them from this mission.

As surprising as it seems, the statistics of the dead and injured serve to spur the younger generation on to bigger and better things. They are more determined than ever to defend the rights of Israel and the Jews to a future existence. Those who die or are injured know of the danger beforehand, and are undeterred by this danger. To ensure that their deaths are not wasted, our young soldiers continue to battle in the most adverse conditions.

And as the sirens fall silent and the tears dry, remembrance turns to jubilation. We celebrate the anniversary of the birth of our beloved land. And the value of the sacrifice becomes clear. Nothing can be of more value to the Jewish people than their own land. And the defence of this land is what motivates the Jews to keep fighting.

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