‘You took my children.’ Netanyahu heckled as Memorial Day marked at national cemetery.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a state memorial ceremony for fallen Israeli soldiers, at the National Hall For Israel’s Fallen soldiers at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Memorial Day, May 13, 2024. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.)

At military cemeteries across the country, somber ceremonies focus on the heavy losses of October 7; Gallant says war against Hamas will shape Israel’s future ‘for decades to come.’

Israel’s best values are reflected in those who fell in defense of the country, and it is for the sake of those values that Israel continues to fight against Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the Memorial Day ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery on Monday, which began following the two-minute siren at 11 a.m.

“At the beginning of the current war, which began with the terrible massacre, we heard of countless acts of sacrifice, stories of heroism and displays of mutual commitment that will be remembered for generations,” Netanyahu said in the Hall of Remembrance, focusing his attention on the October 7 Hamas massacre.

“Our loved ones who fell in battle represent our eternal values. Love of man and nation, love of country, willingness to sacrifice and belief in the righteousness of the path,” he added in a speech that was interrupted by protests.

“This war is about exactly that,” the premier continued. “It’s either us — Israel, or them — the monsters of Hamas. It’s either existence, liberty, security and prosperity, or torture, massacre, rape and slavery.”

“We are determined to win in this struggle,” pledged Netanyahu to a crowd of senior ministers, chief rabbis, the IDF chief of staff, diplomats, and bereaved families. “We will achieve the goals of victory, first and foremost, bringing all of our hostages home.”

“The pain is everywhere, but so is the light,” he told the crowd. “The torch of our existence, which spreads a great light, cannot be extinguished. We hold it together, just as our soldiers and commanders stand together in this fateful battle. Because only together can we win.”

During Netanyahu’s speech, a man was photographed standing in the aisle holding an Israeli flag with “7.10” emblazoned on it in red, an apparent reference to Netanyahu’s refusal to take responsibility for his role in the failures surrounding October 7.

The premier was also interrupted toward the end of his speech with chants of “You took my children,” from several attendees, reportedly bereaved families.

Doris Liber, who spoke at the ceremony on behalf of families of the fallen and whose son Guy Illouz‘s body is held by Hamas in Gaza, addressed Netanyahu, saying that she does not even have a grave at which to mourn her son, and, relating to all the hostages, tearfully implored him to “bring them home.”

Videos circulating on social media also purported to show a large crowd leaving Mount Herzl as Netanyahu began to speak, in a silent protest against him.

Also speaking at the event, President Isaac Herzog said Israel will only be able to heal from October 7 once the hostages kidnapped that day are freed from captivity.

“This recovery, necessary for all of us — as a nation and as a country — is not only about looking to the future and our building, but also about mending the present,” he said. “And our present will not be whole, and our wound will not heal, until all the hostages return — our beloved brothers and sisters, who are in distress and captivity.”

October 7 was the “most heinous terrorist attack” in the history of the State of Israel, in which “entire families were cruelly taken from us,” he stated. “The attack of 7 October was an assault on our rights and sovereignty in our homeland, in our one and only state — Israel.”

Addressing the families of victims, Herzog said that “no one can truly understand the magnitude of the void that has opened in your lives. Our role, the role of the entire people of Israel, is to support you.”

This year’s Memorial Day is an exceptionally somber one, as it is the first since Hamas’s brutal October 7 massacre in southern Israel and comes after a year with the highest number of people killed in war or by terror in five decades.

Since last year’s Memorial Day, 1,600 soldiers and civilians have been killed in combat or by terror, according to figures released by authorities. The Defense Ministry said 766 soldiers were killed while serving in the military during the past year, and another 61 disabled veterans died due to complications from injuries sustained during their service in previous years.

According to the National Insurance Institute, 834 names were also added to the list of civilian terror victims who perished in attacks during the past year, the vast majority of them during the October 7 massacre.

People stand still as a two minutre siren sounded across Israel, marking Memorial Day at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on May 13, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.)

Earlier, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant addressed the first memorial ceremony of the day, also at Mount Herzl’s Remembrance Hall. Like Netanyahu, he focused his remarks on the October 7 massacre in southern Israel and the ongoing war in Gaza, the impact of which, he said, would continue to ripple through Israeli society for decades to come.

“Twenty-five thousand and forty names — this is the unbearably heavy price that we had to pay in blood to secure the life of the people of Israel in their land,” Gallant said, referring to the total number of those who have died in service to Israel — and before its establishment, to the Jewish community in the region — since 1860.

“Every name here in the Hall of Remembrance, among the silent rows of bricks, screams of shattered hopes and dreams, loves and friendships that were cut short, and endless pain — for those who were and no longer are,” he said.

“This year, too many bricks were added to the Wall of Remembrance,” Gallant added, praising the heroism and bravery of the 716 soldiers and members of security forces who lost their lives amid the ongoing war.

The fighting spirit and courage of Israel’s soldiers was what ultimately stopped Hamas from claiming even more lives inside Israel on October 7,” he added.

“In the Gaza Strip, on the northern border, in the West Bank and in more distant places — the IDF is fighting even now, in the most just war the State of Israel has ever known. This is a war without a choice, a war that will shape our lives for decades to come,” he said.

“This is a war that will continue until we bring back our hostages, dismantle Hamas’s rule and military capabilities, and restore prosperity and creativity to the State of Israel and a smile to the faces of its citizens.”

Following Gallant’s comments, the names of Israel’s fallen soldiers, police, prison guards and first responders were read aloud.

The ceremony was attended by senior members of the security establishment including Defense Ministry director general Eyal Zamir, IDF Personnel Directorate chief Maj. Gen. Yaniv Asor and officials from the Israel Police and Israel Prison Service. Each defense body is scheduled to hold its own ceremony as well.

Speaking at the ceremony for slain members of the Shin Bet, agency chief Ronen Bar vowed that the security service will learn from its failures in the leadup to the October 7 terror assault.

“It’s a difficult day for every bereaved family, it’s a difficult day for every citizen, it’s a difficult day for every Shin Bet employee, it’s also a difficult day for me personally,” Bar said.

Ten members and veterans of the Shin Bet were killed since last Memorial Day, all in the October 7 attack.

The Shin Bet failed to provide its vaunted security umbrella for the nation on October 7, Bar said.

“We all feel the loss, the feeling that we could have prevented it, and as the head of the agency who is responsible for the agency’s activities, I feel it perhaps more than anyone,” he continued, and added that the Shin Bet is undertaking an “in-depth” investigation of its role in the October 7 failures.

“A painful and significant investigation. We will learn from this and correct what is required. This is our duty to the people of Israel and this is our duty to the fallen. Without the public’s trust in the state institutions and us, we have no right to exist,” Bar said.

The agency’s role in the war “is not over yet,” he added.

“We will not rest until we return all 128 hostages home, and the four who were there before,” Bar said. “Those who are alive and those who are not. All of them. Because this is the real difference between us and them: We will sacrifice our lives for the citizens; they will sacrifice the lives of citizens for themselves.”

At the same time as Netanyahu attended the main state ceremony at Mount Herzl, government ministers arrived at similar ceremonies taking place across Israel’s 52 other military cemeteries, despite some bereaved families urging them to stay away. Many were met with protests.

At a cemetery in his hometown of Rosh Ha’ayin, war cabinet minister Benny Gantz touched on the plight of the 132 hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza, of whom 36 have been confirmed to no longer be alive, and indicated that Israel was willing to make far-reaching concessions to get them back.

“We will return to Be’eri and Metula, strong but smarting,” he said, referring to badly hit communities near the Gaza and Lebanon borders, which were evacuated some seven months ago with the outbreak of war.

“We’ll have quieter and better days again. We will see our hostages again, for whom we all pray, and who we are committed to bring back even if the price is extremely painful.”

In contrast to Gantz, the hostages were completely absent from a speech by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who spoke at the Ashdod military cemetery.

Ben Gvir — whose presence sparked heated arguments between attendees — stressed that Israel has to keep fighting in memory of those who were killed.

“Our brothers’ blood cries out from the ground and commands us to keep on and remember, to keep on and fight. With shield and sword, until victory — and it is coming,” he said.

Ben Gvir’s fellow hardliner Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich told the crowd at the military cemetery in Ofakim that he took responsibility for the failures of October 7.

“The leadership of the state and the security system failed in the task of protecting the citizens of Israel, and I, as a member of the government, take responsibility for what has been and will be,” he said.

Einav Zangauker, the mother of hostage Matan Zangauker, approached Smotrich and pressed him to end his opposition to a deal with Hamas to return those held in Gaza. “At least make a monumental effort for those who are still alive, for those who can still be saved,” she urged him.

Smotrich told her that the government is working to bring back her son. “I’m giving you a big hug. We are obligated to bring him back and we are working toward that end,” he said.

Matan Zangauker, 24, and his partner Ilana Gritzewsky, 30, were abducted from their Kibbutz Nir Oz home on October 7 as Hamas terrorists massacred residents of the kibbutz during the group’s terror onslaught in southern Israel. Zangauker remains in captivity while Gritzewsky was released in November.

In recent weeks, Einav Zangauker has become a leading voice in the anti-government protest movement.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and bereaved families attend an official Memorial Day ceremony at Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv on May 13, 2024. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.)

Doris Liber, mother of 26-year-old Guy Illouz who was murdered on October 7 by Hamas terrorists and whose body is held by Hamas in Gaza, speaks at a state memorial ceremony for victims of terror, at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, May 13, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.)

People stand still as a two minutre siren sounded across Israel, marking Memorial Day at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on May 13, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.)