Five thousand young Jews from around the world taking part in the Masa Israel Journey program on Sunday evening joined bereaved family members and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers in commemorating Yom HaZikaron – Israel Memorial Day - at the Yad Lashiryon Memorial at Latrun (the IDF Armored Corps' Memorial Site) outside of Jerusalem.
This was the first time that many of the overseas participants participated in such a ceremony in Israel.
Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky, Director General of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Alan Hoffmann and Knesset members attended the event.
“3,800 years ago, right here in Latrun, the Prophet Joshua fought the battles to conquer the Land of Israel. Later the Maccabees fought near here, and in 1948 the terrible battles of Latrun were fought," Bennett said in his address. "We are all a part of this 3,800-year chain which will continue to go on.”
Bennett spoke of late IDF Lt.-Col. Emmanuel Moreno, with whom he served in the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit and who was killed in the Second Lebanon war.
Sharansky told the audience that while a prisoner in Soviet prisons, he tried to estimate the date of Yom Hazikaron. "I thought about the three Israeli sportsmen who had visited Russia and had bravely met with us. They told us that Israel was a place of great joy," Sharansky said.
"I later heard that one of the three was killed in the Yom Kippur war. But, mostly I thought about Yoni Netanyahu," Sharansky said. "The fact that the State of Israel was prepared to send its soldiers to rescue Jews all over the world gave me great strength."
Noting that "Yoni was 29 when he was killed and I was 29 when I was arrested," Sharansky emphasized that "Every time that I felt that I didn’t have the strength to keep resisting the authorities, I thought about Yoni Netanyahu and it gave me the strength to keep going.”
Sharansky noted that participants of 200 Masa programs were present at the event. "One Masa participant once told me that in Israel he feels loved not because of his views, but because he was a part of a real family. We can only enjoy our lives here in Israel due to those who gave their lives to keep us safe and they can only live on if we keep them alive in our memories.”
The courage of Argentinian oleh Damian Rosovsky, a fallen soldier from the Golani Mountain Brigade was among the stories and videos screened at the event.
Rosovsky, who made Aliyah in 1989, was killed at age 20 in the Beit Lid double suicide bombing on January 22, 1995. Rosovsky, who served as a medic, saved the life of another soldier who was wounded in the first blast before he himself was killed in the second explosion.
“We feel that we have lost a limb," wrote Rosvsky's comrades-in-arms of his death. "Our understanding commander who always taught us how to be the best we could be is now gone.”