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Benjamin Netanyahu Administration: Speech at Yad Vashem for Holocaust Remebrance Day Ceremony

(April 7, 2013)

Recently, we have witnessed horrific acts of violence against the elderly, including elderly Holocaust survivors. There is nothing that contradicts Jewish heritage, the values of our country and basic human morality more than this. We will not tolerate it, and I consider it my duty to apply the full weight of the State and Government of Israel to make sure that the culprits are severely punished.  This was what I instructed.  We are committed to maintaining the dignity and safety of our elderly citizens in general, and we have a special commitment to the welfare of Holocaust survivors in particular. Today, the Government added resources for care, welfare and medications for Holocaust survivors, and we will add as much as needed, with an open heart. 

Holocaust survivors are the symbol of our revival. They, who witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust, deserve to spend their remaining days in peace and tranquility.  In the words of the Prophet Zachary: "Old men and old women will once again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with his staff in his hand in advanced age". In advanced age – in safety, comfort and dignity.

Citizens of Israel,

In every generation, they rise up to destroy us. In every generation, we must see ourselves as if we have survived the Holocaust and founded this country. In every generation, we are committed to ensuring that there will not be another Holocaust.  During the time of the Holocaust, we were unable to prevent the annihilation. Many failed to identify the danger in time, and once they did, it was already too late.  The trap was set; the trap was sprung.  The gates of this land were shut to Jewish refugees, as were the gates of most countries, although not all, including those of the most enlightened ones.

From that point, the path to eradicating our six million brothers and sisters was easy.  The hatred against Jews, which culminated in Nazi Germany, the weakness of the Jews in exile and the impotence of the world's nations – the combination of these three elements resulted in the tragedy of the Holocaust. However, from the depths of darkness, the Jewish fate underwent a major transformation.  In the death camps and ghettos, in the Warsaw ghetto – after which this square is named – Jewish history changed.  There, Jewish resistance was revived and the spirit of the Maccabees was rediscovered.  The flag of rebellion was raised once again.  From lows not known to man, Jewish youth mobilized their power of resistance and their Jewish courage to fight back against the Nazi oppressor. The fact that they were defeated does not diminish the magnitude of their heroism and the major transformation they generated in the history of our people.

From defenseless victims, the protectors of the ghetto transformed into valiant fighters, valiant fighters who paralyzed the German military for nearly a month.  Few against many, guns against tanks – for nearly a month.  The actual spirit of the Maccabees. Five years later, with that same spirit – few against many – IDF soldiers, among them many Holocaust survivors, defeated the Arab armies that had arrived to wipe out the fledgling State of Israel and the remaining survivors of the Holocaust.  The Jewish revival is inextricably linked to the willingness and ability of the Jews to wage an uncompromising battle against those who sought to destroy them. Our ability and willingness to defend ourselves is what enabled the establishment of the Zionist enterprise and what guarantees our continued existence and future. 

Several days ago I bid farewell to a young Lieutenant-Colonel who served in the military secretariat of the Prime Minister's Bureau.  He is going to the Negev to train future IDF commanders at the officers' academy.  I was very moved when, at the farewell ceremony, he told the story of his grandmother Hanna. Hanna is a survivor of Auschwitz.  The Nazis carved a number on Hanna's arm that ended with the digits 78.  As fate would have it, Hanna's ID card in the State of Israel also ends with the digits 78.  The death number which Hanna received at the Auschwitz death camp was her life number in the State of Israel.  Hanna, who is watching us now, survived the Nazi inferno, immigrated to the Land of Israel. Her husband fought in the War of Independence, and today, her grandson, an officer in the Israel Defense Forces, is training our future commanders whose mission is to ensure that we will live here forever.

Six million Jews perished in the valley of death of the Holocaust. Today, for the first time since the establishment of the State, more than six million Jews live in the State of Israel.  You, the citizens of Israel, are the testament to our victory.  From the abyss of the Holocaust, we climbed to the peak of Zion.  From a deep pit, we rose to a pinnacle. 

This is our victory.  It is our comfort and our pride – our pride in the State of Israel, which is a beacon of enlightenment, progress and freedom in the darkness which blights so much of our surroundings.  One needs only to look around. We see people fighting for the very right to live and for the most basic human rights.  One needs only to look around us to understand the enormity of the achievement of the State of Israel. 

We are proud of the amazing things we have created here in 65 years of independence.  We are proud of the great light emanating from Zion, a light unto the people of Israel, a light unto the nations; a light of progress, a light of prosperity, a light of a peace-seeking nation.  I am proud to be Prime Minister of this nation.  However, there are those who seek to extinguish this light of ours.  Iran openly declares its intention to destroy the State of Israel and employs all means to achieve this end.

"The Zionists", I am now quoting Iranian religious leaders, "are germs and bacteria", "the Jews are filthy people who spread disease".  These statements were not only made then, they are made now. "Israel", says the leader of Iran today, "is a cancerous tumor which must be excised from the Middle East".  The murderous hatred for the Jewish people, which has accompanied our nation since its inception, did not disappear from the world.  It was simply replaced by a murderous hatred for the Jewish state. What has changed since the Holocaust is our determination and ability to defend ourselves by ourselves. 

We value the international community's efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program, but we will never entrust others with our fate, not even the best of our friends.

I have confidence in the strength of the State of Israel; I have confidence in the Israel Defense Forces. I believe in you, Israel's citizens.  We are stronger now than we have ever been, and we can meet the challenges ahead, as difficult as they may be.  We have great strength. 

Two weeks ago, our friend, Rabbi Lau, spoke on this mountain.  As a child, he survived the death camps.  He told the story of a touching meeting he had last year with a retired American general. The American general, who was one of the soldiers who liberated the death camps, told Rabbi Lau with tears in his eyes: "I ask for your forgiveness. We arrived too late".  The most profound meaning of the establishment of the State of Israel is this: we will never again be in a situation where it is too late.  We will never stand helpless against those who seek our destruction.

Sixty five years ago, the Declaration of Independence granted us a State and granted us the sovereign ability to make the necessary decisions that will guarantee our future here.  We will know how to act to defend ourselves.  In this place, on this day, I pledge: there will never be another Holocaust. 

Sources: Prime Ministers Office