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President Isaac Herzog participated in the annual memorial ceremony for the 49 victims of Kafr Kassem who were killed by Israel Border Police officers in 1956 because they were unaware that an imposed curfew had were brought forward four hours, and were returning from the fields where they worked.

His participation came despite an outcry in the Knesset the previous Wednesday over the failed bill establishing a national day of mourning for victims.

Until seven years ago, Israel did not accept blame for this unnecessary tragedy, but after then President Reuven Rivlin, after just over three months of his presidency, decided to visit to Kafr Kassem on the day of the ceremony and to condemn it as a horrific crime. the event, which is still an open wound among the inhabitants of Kafr Kassem, Herzog, former cabinet secretary, government minister and leader of the opposition, decided that in good conscience he had to do the same.

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

Speaking both Hebrew and Arabic, Herzog told the people of Kafr Kassem that he stood before them with his head bowed and his heart aching, “on the sixty-fifth birthday of one saddest events in the history of our country, “which he described as” an event whose seriousness has never been in doubt. Because it is clear to all of us that killing and injuring innocent people is absolutely prohibited. They must remain beyond any political argument!

President Isaac Herzog with Meretz MP Isawi Frej, October 29, 2021 (Courtesy)

Reiterating the sadness expressed in his opening remarks, Herzog later said: “I bow to the memory of the forty-nine victims. I bow to you, their families, and the people of Kafr Kassem through the ages, and in the name of myself and the State of Israel, I ask forgiveness “

Asking for forgiveness, Herzog said, “I extend a supporting and embracing hand to you, and I pray from the bottom of my heart that the merciful and compassionate God will be by your side.”

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

This lesson has been taught for decades, he said, and will continue to be taught from generation to generation. Herzog declared his support for the initiative to have the massacre taught in an organized manner in the education system.

All over the State of Israel, school students, participants in youth movements, IDF soldiers, commanders and officers, and all security forces should be made aware of this terrible event and the lessons to be learned from it. , did he declare.

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

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

Herzog noted that the memorial ceremony is not only a moment of introspection on the past, but also an important opportunity to reflect on a common 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. It is our opportunity, as a society, to say no to prejudice. It is our opportunity, as a human society, to strengthen what we have in it. common as citizens and as neighbors. This is not a decree of fate, but a partnership of fate. This is our opportunity to uproot discrimination and hatred. “

Herzog reminded his listeners that in his inaugural address as president, he explicitly said he intended to address the most painful topics in Israeli society. “If we don’t, we won’t meet our common challenges,” he said.

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