President Herzog apologizes at Kafr Kassem memorial ceremony

President Isaac Herzog participated in the annual commemoration ceremony for the 49 victims of Kafr Kassem who were killed by Israeli Border Police officers in 1956 because they did not know that the curfew was imposed four hours early and were returning home from the fields where they worked.

His participation came despite the uproar in the Knesset the previous Wednesday over the defeat of the proposed bill to establish a national day of mourning for the victims.

Until seven years ago, Israel did not accept the blame for this unnecessary tragedy, but after then-President Reuven Rivlin, after just over three months of his presidency, decided to visit Kafr Kassem on the day of the ceremony and condemn it as a crime horrible. In the event that still sits like an open wound with the residents of Kafr Kassem, Herzog, a former cabinet secretary, government minister and leader of the opposition, decided that all in conscience, he must do the same.

But Herzog went one step further than Rivlin. In fact, he apologized and asked for forgiveness, and acted with appropriate humility.

Speaking in both Hebrew and Arabic, Herzog told the residents of Kafr Kassem that he was standing before them with his head bowed and his heart hurt, “on the 65th anniversary of one of the saddest events in the history of our country.” , which he described as “an event whose severity has never been questioned. Because it is clear to all of us that the killing and wounding of innocents are absolutely forbidden. They must remain beyond all political arguments!”

President Isaac Herzog with Meretz MK Isawi Frej, October 29, 2021 (credit: courtesy)

Reiterating the pain expressed in his opening remarks, Herzog later said: “I bow my head to the memory of the forty-nine victims. I bow my head to you, your families, and to the people of Kafr Kassem throughout the centuries. , and in my name and that of the State of Israel, I apologize “

Asking for forgiveness, Herzog said: “I extend a hand of support and embrace to you, and I pray from the bottom of my heart that the merciful and compassionate God is by your side.”

Invoking an important lesson in sensitive diplomacy, Herzog continued: “History shows us that the strength of a country is also judged by its ability to look directly at the events of its past. But, brothers and sisters, the past, difficult as it may be. In other words, it is the most important engine for our present and future here in the State of Israel. The deep wound that opened here, in this place, sixty-five years ago, is a wound for all of Israeli society, Jews and Arabs alike. Since that terrible tragedy, the ban on grossly illegal orders has been set in stone. “

This lesson has been taught for decades, he emphasized, and will continue to be taught from generation to generation. Herzog expressed his support for the initiative so that the massacre is taught in an organized way in the educational system.

Across the State of Israel, students in school, participants of the youth movement, soldiers, commanders and officers of the IDF and all security forces must learn about this terrible event and the lessons learned from it, he said.

“I too, in my youth and adult life, in school and in the military, studied and investigated this incident, its conclusions and its lessons, which we must never forget, God forbid,” he said. “That day, an order was issued that was later described by Judge Benjamin Halevy as a” pierce the eye and stir the heart “order, with a” black flag flying over it. “

The initiative to teach the history of the Kafr Kassem massacre came from one of the villagers, Minister for Regional Cooperation Esawi Frej, who lost a relative in the massacre, in which another relative was injured.

Herzog noted that the memorial ceremony is not only a time to reflect on the past, but also an important opportunity to look at a shared future. “It is not too late to fix what needs to be fixed,” he said. “On the contrary, this is exactly the time to do it. This is our opportunity, as a society, to say no to prejudice. This is our opportunity, as a human society, to enhance what we have in common as citizens and as neighbors. This is not a decree of fate, but an association of fate. This is our chance to eradicate discrimination and hatred. “

Herzog reminded his listeners that in his inaugural address as president, he had explicitly said that he intended to touch on the most painful issues in Israeli society. “If we do not, we will not live up to our shared challenges,” he said.

“On this day, sixty-five years after the catastrophe, we will pray and hope that the memory of the victims remains with us as a lesson and a compass and that from the depths of the pain we will emerge together a shared future, one full of hope. “.

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