A standing-room only audience of several hundred Montrealers turned out May 3 at the Gelber Centre at Federation CJA to commemorate Yom Hazikaron, the annual remembrance of fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terrorism.
The gathering was held in person for the first time since 2019, as the COVID pandemic required that events be held virtually in 2020 and 2021.
The Israel consulate-organized commemoration was hosted by Israel Defence Forces veteran Edouard El Kaim, and featured a memorial candle lighting by Edna Lev, memorial prayers led by Cantor Gideon Zelermyer, and musical performances by Keren Peles.
Wreaths were laid by Israeli Consul-General Paul Hirschson and Colonel Amiram Jakira, Israel's Defence Attaché to Canada; three representatives of the Canadian Armed Forces; and Federation CJA CEO Yair Szlak. The pictures of many of the fallen were shown on screens. Via video, Orly Argaman spoke about her sister Ofra Cohen, an IDF soldier who was killed in 1975.
The experience of serving in the IDF "remains with me up until today," El Kaim said. "I'm sure this is true for many of you here today."
Colonel Amiram Amika told the gathering that national monuments in Israeli cities and towns "remind us of the bloody price the State of Israel has paid to become safe and secure.
"The people of Israel are flourishing," he added. "While reaching extraordinary achievements, the memory of the fallen... is our duty, as well as a source of strength."
Hirschson, the Consul-General, pointed out that in advance of celebrating Israel's independence, "we mark the memory of 28,284 soldiers, men and women, and all the victims of terror.
"We don't forget, that just a few short decades ago, we encountered another school of thought, which in its own dark way elevated and worshipped death. We've been there before. We're not going there again. Israel in 2022, no longer a teenager, now a young adult, more confident, creative, not only in technology but also in development aid and humanitarian assistance, bringing drinking water to millions in remote villages across Africa, and building partnerships across the Arab world.
"Israel, perhaps the most exciting venture of the 21st century, in large part facilitated by 28,284 of our brothers and sisters, 28,284 plus one, Vyacheslav Golev, killed just days ago. He saved the life of his fiancé and others."
Joel Segal, president of Federation CJA, said Yom Hazikaron is a "day to remind not only Israelis, but indeed all Jews whether in Israel or the diaspora, of the heavy price that is paid to ensure the continued existence of Eretz Yisrael.
"Today, we stand together as one people with one heart, wherever we are, and we mourn along with our fellow Jews in Israel. Jewish communities around the world cannot thrive as they do without a strong and secure Israel. It is thanks to the brave men and women who have given their lives in defence of our homeland that we are able to celebrate independence, freedom and Jewish perseverance."
The ceremony concluded with the reciting of Kaddish by Michel Mizrahi, the bereaved son of Shlomo Mizrahi.