Families of Machal that lost their dear ones, the volunteers of the Machal, the Director-General of the Keren Kayemet, and the Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces.
Dear friends, the Machal, the volunteers of the Machal were a special group, a group of people - Jews, non-Jews - from 29 countries, that managed after participation in the Second World War, to remain alive, to come, to volunteer in the service of the newly-born State of Israel, in the newly organized Israel Defense Forces, and to contribute far beyond their number to our capability to fight the most decisive war of all the wars that the State of Israel has experienced - our War of Independence - the war that its results decided if we will be or will not be as a Jewish State.
And we succeeded - with your help, with your participation. You came over here, not knowing the conditions, many of you didn't know even the language, the Hebrew language. I remember then, in the Air Force, the language was English, because most of the pilots of the first squadron of fighters were Machal people from English-speaking countries - from the United States, Canada, Britain, South Africa, and other places. My generation will never forget what you have done, how much you made it possible for us to achieve what has been achieved.
Formally, the War of Independence ended in 1949, when we signed armistice agreements with our four neighboring Arab countries that invaded with the purposes to throw us into the sea and failed. But, let's be frank, 45 years after the declaration of the independence of the State of Israel, we still continue our War of Independence. It was called in different terms: Kadesh Operation, the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, the war in Lebanon, and all the attacks, terror and others, between all the wars.
Today, Israel remembers the 17,709 Israeli soldiers, men and women, that lost their lives in the wars. They are all part of the terrible price that Israel has paid and continues to pay for our determination to live as a Jewish State in security nationally, and security to the people of Israel. It is not by sheer coincidence that the day of the memorial for the fallen Israeli soldiers is adjacent, close to, the day of our independence. The two - the sad day and the day of joy - are linked together in the kind of bonds that cannot be separated. We know that there is no achievement without deep pain; that there is no light without shadows; that there is no joy without agony.
Today, as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, it is my main responsibility, on the one hand, to leave no stone unturned on the road to achieve peace, but peace that will give security to the State and people of Israel.
I know what you have done; I know the tremendous contribution of the Machal to our strength in the longest and most painful war that we have ever experienced. I'll never forget, not far from here, when the brigade that I had the privilege to command, the Palmach Brigade, Harel, moved on the 19th of April to Jerusalem, and I remember the long convoy of 300 trucks, protected by the 5th Battalion, being attacked by Arab ambush along two or three kilometers from Latrun into Bab el-Wad, and I remember Ben Dunkelman, one of the volunteers from Canada, that went with me, drove my car, got five bullets and managed to save himself. When we reached, later on, Kiryat Anavim, he said to me: "I got the DSO for serving as a captain in the fighting in Europe. Believe me, this was a kind of experience, driving with a civilian car along three kilometers of ambush firing at me. This experience I'll never forget". Ben, one of the volunteers, ended as a commander of the 7th Armoured Brigade of the Israeli Army and participated in the liberation of the center of the Northern Galilee.
I remember my liaison officer with the Air Force when I was second to Yigal Allon, who commanded the Southern Command in fighting against the Egyptians, Lou Lennart, one of the first pilots of the first fighter squadron of the Israeli Air Force; how we went together all through the campaigns that brought about the liberation of the Negev and reaching Eilat. And I remember many others. I'll never forget the attack on Falujja at the beginning of the operation that had to break the siege of the Negev and liberated Beersheva; how the First Tank Battalion of the Israeli Army, composed of an Israeli armoured personnel carrier, 13 Renault tanks manned by Russian immigrants and two Cromwell tanks that were manned by Jews and non-Jews, Armoured Corps volunteers from Britain. And the network of the battalion commander had to be in three different channels: Hebrew, Russian, British. Try to imagine how to co-ordinate such an attack in three languages!
These volunteers that brought about the beginning of our Armoured Corps, gave us not only your experience, but your lives. The people of Israel, the State of Israel, will never forget it. We will ever cherish this unique contribution made by you, the volunteers of the Machal. And for that, thank you, thank you very much.
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