President Herzog’s Address on Israel’s 76th Independence Day

By BJLife Israel Newsroom
Posted on 05/14/24

President Isaac Herzog this morning, Tuesday, addressed the annual ceremony held at the President’s Residence on Israel’s Independence Day, recognizing 120 Outstanding Soldiers

This year’s event, taking place under the shadow of the ongoing conflict, included songs symbolizing hope and faith, in memory of the fallen, in honor of the bereaved families, and with the hope for the swift return of all the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza

Later, President Herzog will host a reception for ambassadors and members of the international diplomatic corps from around the world.

Text of the President’s address:

"Outstanding soldiers and their dear families, Minister of Defense, IDF Chief of Staff, citizens and residents of Israel. This emotional occasion is not taken for granted this year. This year, we mark a different Independence Day. We are proud of our independence, of the miracle that is the State of Israel, but our hearts are full of sorrow and pain. With us here are dear and beloved bereaved families. These days we are full of the pain of bereavement, pain for the wounded, the pain for civilians uprooted from their homes, the pain for the hostages. I reiterate - there is no greater Mitzvah than redeeming captives, and as I said we need to act with courage. We need to choose life. We will not rest or be silent. We will not rest or be silent – until our sons and daughters return home to their borders.

Dear friends, I have debated considerably whether it is right to hold the traditional ceremony this year for Independence Day at the President's Residence. When we carry with us constantly so much pain, mourning, so much concern for hostages and soldiers, so much sorrow and grief – how can we behave as usual? Now, when I look at you – 120 Outstanding Soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces – I know I made the right decision. You are 120 beacons of light. 120 sources of comfort. 120 sources of hope. Your bravery, excellence, determination, you comradery and love for the people, nation, and homeland – are the source of our strength and inspiration. You lift the spirit of the people, and the whole nation salutes you.

Therefore, this ceremony – the President's Outstanding Soldiers Ceremony on the 76th Independence Day of the State of Israel – although held in a special and adapted format to reflect the pain we feel, together with the Chief of Staff, we decided it should take place only with the agreement of the Outstanding Soldiers and their families – and so it is indeed taking place. With gusto, with pride, and with much hope that next year we will return to this point in joy. Because this very event is a declaration from all of us that we will not let the enemy defeat us. We are determined, together, to sound the historical, emotional, and binding melody of our nation, and of our beloved country - the State of Israel. A melody woven from generation to generation, a melody bound up in the eternal command: Am Yisrael Chai.

Dear Outstanding Soldiers, 120 wonderful soldiers of the IDF, defenders of Israel – from all units, with diverse roles, and from across the communities of Israeli society, you prove again and again that the right to serve in the IDF and to protect the security of the people and the state is a tremendous privilege. All of you fulfilled your role in the war. Many of you fought on the battlefield, in the toughest battles. You saved lives and lost friends. Some of you were injured, even severely, and some of you joined the painful family of the bereaved. Your excellence and bravery are not a result of the weapons you carried or the orders you fulfilled. Excellence is a decision - your choice - to overcome all challenges, and to rise to the occasion, each and every one in their own way and within their role – on the frontline or at the rear. You chose in a split second or through months of perseverance to act, to be alert, to search, to guide, to be stirred, to analyze, to rescue, to defend, to reach out and to save. You chose to mobilize all the strength, the will, the tools, and the experience you have for the service of the people and the country. In moments of fear and uncertainty, you chose to rise to the occasion and excel, a moment in which you forged your reality. The strength of spirit and bravery you showed are the reason you were chosen as Outstanding Soldiers. These choices build a nation, they built us and will build us further. This is what resilience looks like. You, together with all the serving men and women in the IDF, in the security services, in emergency and rescue – all of you symbolize a young and wonderful generation. A generation of Israelis committed to leadership and giving of yourselves. A generation of hope.

On behalf of all the people, I want to say to you and to your devoted and beloved families – who raised and nurtured you with dedication and love for many years: We are proud of you. Well done. Happy Independence Day Israel."