“Our thoughts and prayers this evening are with those who are fighting for democracy,” said Jonathan Freedman at the Yom Hazikaron ceremony, May 10, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC).
Yom Hazikaron is Israel’s day of remembrance for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism.
“A nation that remembers its fallen is a strong nation,” said Freedman, a former battalion commander and a lieutenant-colonel in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reserves, and master of ceremonies at the event.
The spirit of remembrance would be felt throughout the evening, beginning with the lowering of the Israeli flag to half-mast followed by the sounding of the siren for a moment of silence.
Several community members lit memorial candles and spoke about those who were killed in terror attacks over the past year. One of the innocent civilians recently murdered was Ezra Schwartz, 18, one of three people gunned down by a Palestinian terrorist while he was in Israel doing volunteer work.
“[Ezra Schwartz] won’t be coming back home,” Linda Prizant told the sombre crowd, reflecting on how she feels as the mother of a 19-year-old son currently studying in Israel. While her own son will soon return home, Ezra’s parents will never get to see their son again.
“We cannot forget a single Jewish life,” Prizant said before lighting a memorial candle.
Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak spoke about the meaning of Yom Hazikaron.
“Today, more than every day, we are family,” said Barak, reminding the assembly that all Jews have a connection to the State of Israel.
Barak also spoke about the Canada-Israel relationship and said Canada has stood by Israel’s side during both good times and bad and that that the friendship enjoyed by the two countries will endure.
Jewish Federation of Ottawa Chair Linda Kerzner reiterated the connection felt by members of the Jewish community with the State of Israel.
Songs were performed by Musica Ebraica and Ottawa Jewish Community School students Kayla Sabloff, Kayla Reichstein and Olivia Benguigui read Hayim Hefer’s poem, “The Paratroopers Cry.”
Rabbi Menachem Blum read the prayer for the IDF and Cantor Pinchas Levinson closed the ceremony by reciting “Kaddish” and “Kel Maleh Rachamim,” followed by the Canadian and Israeli national anthems.