Jerusalem: Paying tributes to Israel`s fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks, Nobel laureate President Shimon Peres has said that his country "still lives by the sword but yearns for peace".
"We still live by our swords, but we yearn for peace with all of our hearts," Peres said adding, "The battle is not over, we still have not reached our goal."
At a ceremony marking the beginning of the Remembrance Day for the fallen of Israel`s wars and victims of terrorism, Peres said that his country had been founded not with the UN`s declaration of Israel as a state, but through the "blood of its sons, the sweat of its pioneers and the vision of its prophets."
The elder statesman noted that Israel`s happiness was always tinged with sadness because of the soldiers that have laid down their lives protecting the state.
Paying tributes to those who sacrificed their lives to protect Israel, the President told the bereaved families that "without the courage of your children, husbands, brothers and sisters we would not have a state."
A one minute siren wailed across the country at 8 PM yesterday kicking off a series of events to pay tribute to Israel`s 23,169 casualties of war and terrorism since 1860.
A two-minute siren will be heard today at 11 AM across the country marking the start of official memorial ceremonies to be held at 52 military cemeteries.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at another ceremony at Yad Lebanim said that the State of Israel must not forget that it is here thanks to the sacrifice of the men and women who gave their lives in its defense.
Netanyahu said that the fallen are "the heroes of the nation."
"They come from every part of the people, and from every part of Israeli society, and the simplest, most essential truth is this: We would not be here if not for their sacrifice, we would not be here if not for their readiness to give their lives so that we will be here," he said.
"During the years of our exile we were simply slaughtered, and the great difference since the revival of Israel is our ability to station our sons and daughters to defend us, and even if this carries a pain like none other," the Israeli Premier asserted.
The Defense Ministry yesterday said that 57 recently fallen had been added to the casualty count since Remembrance Day of 2013, and that an additional 50 disabled army veterans have died due to their disabilities.
The number of bereaved family members stands at 17,038 of which 2,141 are orphans and 4,966 are Israel Defense Forces (IDF) widows.
The Defense Ministry is preparing for the arrival of more than a million and a half people at military cemeteries across the country.