Israelis began to mark Memorial Day on Sunday afternoon, commemorating 23,169 fallen soldiers and 2,495 terror victims who fell throughout the history of the State of Israel and the Zionist movement. Commemoration ceremonies will continue throughout the country until Monday night, when Memorial Day ends abruptly with the start of celebrations marking Independence Day.
The first official event began at 4 p.m. Sunday at Yad LaBanim, or “Memorial for the Sons,” in Jerusalem. The event was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose brother Yoni fell during the IDF’s rescue of Jewish hostages in Entebbe, Uganda, in July 1976. It was also attended by other families of the fallen, Israel’s chief rabbis, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Supreme Court Chief Justice Asher Grunis, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and other top officials.
“On this day, the nation adopts us and unites with us, and with the heroes of the nation,” Netanyahu said, speaking for the families of the fallen. “They came from all parts of the country, from all segments of Israeli society, and the simple and most concise truth is this: We would not be here if not for their sacrifice. We would not be here without their readiness to give their lives so we could be here. This right, this sacrifice, the ability to risk their lives in the face of the horrors of war — all this was not available to us before the founding of Israel.”
“No one has to remind you how to remember. You never forgot,” Edelstein said in a statement Sunday addressed to bereaved families. “Memorial Day is the commandment of the entire nation, a nation that stands and bows its head respectfully and with humility at the [soldiers’] dedication and contribution.”
In a statement, opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) said, “It’s important that tonight and tomorrow, as we gather to remember the IDF fallen, that we remember those heroes who paid with their lives so that Jerusalem will return to be the beating heart of the Jewish nation and the capital of the state.”
“As we gather together in the cemeteries, at the memorials, and at the IDF ceremonies, we remember those who gave this country all they could give. The fallen soldiers and terror victims accompany us in their absence at every step of the way, at every crossroads that life throws at us,” IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said Sunday.
The official state Memorial Day ceremony is slated to begin at 8 p.m. Sunday with the sounding of a one-minute siren nationwide during which Israelis, wherever they are, will stand at attention out of respect for the dead. The siren will be followed by a candlelighting ceremony at the Western Wall. Prayer services will be held at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and at the Knesset on Sunday evening.
On Monday, a two-minute siren will sound at 11 a.m., with ceremonies beginning shortly afterward at 44 military cemeteries nationwide. At 1 p.m. Monday, a separate commemoration for Israel’s terror victims will be held at Mount Herzl.