Sixty-five years since the tragedy, Israel president Isaac Herzog with a bowed head apologized to the families of the 49 victims of Kafr Kassem who were killed by Israel Border Police officers on October 29, 1956, because they were unaware that an imposed curfew had been brought forward by four hours, and was coming home from the fields where they worked.
Herzog made the apology on Friday during the annual memorial ceremony for the 49 victims.
Speaking in both Hebrew and Arabic, Herzog told the residents of Kafr Kassem that he was standing before them with bowed head and his heart pained, “on the sixty-fifth anniversary of one of the saddest events in the history of our country”, which he described as “an event whose gravity has never been in question.
For it is clear to all of us that the killing and injury of innocents are absolutely forbidden. They must remain beyond all political arguments!”
“I bow my head before the memory of the forty-nine victims. I bow my head before you, their families, and before the inhabitants of Kafr Kassem throughout the ages, and on behalf of myself and the State of Israel, I ask for forgiveness,” Herzog said.
“I extend a supportive and embracing hand to you, and I pray from the depths of my heart that the merciful and compassionate God will be by your side,” Herzog added.
Herzog said the tragedy might be hard to forget it however led to the creation of important laws such as the prohibition on manifestly illegal orders that have been engraved in stone.
He also backs moves on the initiative for the massacre to be taught in an organized fashion in the education system.
“All across the State of Israel, students at school, youth movement participants, soldiers, commanders, and officers in the IDF and all the security forces should learn about this terrible event and the lessons learned from it”, he said.
Moreover, Herzog noted that the memorial ceremony is not only a moment for soul-searching about the past but also an important opportunity to look at a shared future.
“It is not too late to fix what needs fixing,” he explained.