“THOUGH Israel has had to fight many wars, from the very beginning it has sought peace,” Zionist Council of New South Wales president Richard Balkin said at the Yom Hazikaron commemoration for fallen soldiers and victims of terror at Moriah College on Sunday night (April 30).
The number of people who have died defending the State of Israel or have succumbed to injuries from terror attacks is 23,544, which equates to about half the Jewish population of Sydney.
One of those was Lieutenant Danny Goldberg, a former Sydney Habonim member who was killed during the Lebanon War in 1982.
His memory was honoured at the ceremony by his childhood friend, Raymond Bernstein.
“Danny was a highly intelligent man, committed to making the world a better place,” Bernstein said.
“He had a strong social ethic and a belief in the good of mankind…When Israel invaded Lebanon, he displayed amazing courage and strength in the face of what was to come.”
Former Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) commander Matan Dansker spoke of his harrowing experiences commanding a unit during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
“We are freedom fighters,” Dansker said.
“We have a sacred obligation to take up arms and protect our people. Is there a more sacred obligation than to defend your family, your community, your country?”
As Dansker’s unit crossed the border into Gaza, one of their vehicles was bombed and seven of his soldiers were killed instantly.
Dansker’s best friend was also killed while fighting for the IDF in Gaza, and he regularly visits his grave on Mount Herzl.
“Nothing prepared me for that. All of those soldiers wanted to live long lives,” said Dansker tearfully.
“But all sacrificed themselves for a greater cause … Everyone who fought that night fought for the centre of the community of the Jewish people, and, I believe from the bottom of my heart, for all of you.”
The audience also heard from Michal Kfir, who told the story of her father Moshe’s fight in the 1972 Yom Kippur War.
During the October ceasefire, Moshe received a letter from his fiancée Elisheva, which he tucked into his breast pocket.
The next day, Moshe was shot while giving aid to soldiers who had been ambushed in Egypt.
“The letter was stained with Moshe’s blood, and when he was hospitalised in Egypt, they said he was as good as dead,” Kfir said.
“Moshe didn’t die, but the same cannot be said for tens of thousands of other soldiers. Let us remember those who gave everything they had to give us a home in the state of Israel.”