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'Nobody asked who was right-wing and who was left-wing'

‘Arguments fall silent in cemeteries’: Herzog calls for unity in Memorial Day speech

Siren sounds nationwide to begin day of mourning for country’s 28,284 fallen soldiers and terror victims, including 177 from past year; IDF chief: ‘We defend the right to life’

  • IDF chief Aviv Kohavi (L) and President Isaac Herzog (R) observe a moment of silence as a siren sounds at  the state ceremony for Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, at Jerusalem's Western Wall, on May 3, 2022. (Video screenshot)
    IDF chief Aviv Kohavi (L) and President Isaac Herzog (R) observe a moment of silence as a siren sounds at the state ceremony for Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, at Jerusalem's Western Wall, on May 3, 2022. (Video screenshot)
  • A ceremony marking Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 3, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    A ceremony marking Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 3, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
  • The state ceremony for Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims is held at Jerusalem's Western Wall, on May 3, 2022. (Video screenshot)
    The state ceremony for Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims is held at Jerusalem's Western Wall, on May 3, 2022. (Video screenshot)
  • Soldiers stand at attention as a siren sounds during the state ceremony for Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, at Jerusalem's Western Wall, on May 3, 2022. (Video screenshot)
    Soldiers stand at attention as a siren sounds during the state ceremony for Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, at Jerusalem's Western Wall, on May 3, 2022. (Video screenshot)

Israel on Tuesday evening mourned the country’s fallen soldiers and terror victims as sirens sounded nationwide at 8 p.m. to mark the start of Memorial Day

The sirens brought Israel to a halt for a full minute, as people stood in somber silence on the streets, inside homes and on balconies. Traffic too came to an abrupt halt, as vehicle occupants exited their vehicles to stand beside them.

The day’s official opening ceremony was held at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, with President Isaac Herzog giving an address in which he urged Israelis to continue developing the country in a spirit of unity.

“Our sons and daughters, who fell in defense of our state, fought together and fell together. They did not ask, nor did anyone ask them, who was right-wing and who was left-wing. Who was religious. Who was secular. Who was Jewish and who was not Jewish,” he said.

“They fell as Israelis, defending Israel. In cemeteries, arguments fall silent. Between the headstones, not a sound. A silence that demands that we fulfill, together, their single dying wish: the resurrection of Israel. The building of Israel. United, consolidated, responsible for each other. For we are all sisters and brothers,”

Herzog acknowledged a recent series of terror attacks that have left 16 people dead, bringing violence and death to city streets.

“Even today, our enemies rise up against us with hateful terror, and as always they find us ready and determined, with one hand holding a weapon and the other extended in dialogue and peace,” he said.

“It is precisely in these heart-breaking moments, escorting our heroes and heroines on their final journeys, together with their beloved families, whose pain instantly becomes our own — precisely in these moments, we discover the sheer power of our wonderful and marvelous nation, a nation that knows how to overcome any obstacle.”

President Isaac Herzog addresses the state ceremony for Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, on May 3, 2022. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Herzog called on the bereaved to not forget the continued goal of building the State of Israel and urged future generations to persevere in the duty of building a cohesive nation.

“This is our duty to the fallen, our duty to you, and our duty to future generations: to sustain a strong and prosperous Jewish and democratic state, a state built of a dazzling mosaic of communities,” he said.

The president concluded his speech with a reference to IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, whose bodies have been held in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip since the 2014 war, as well as missing civilians Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.

“From here, I pray for the speedy return of our captured and the missing, and the task of bringing them back home remains on our shoulders,” he said.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi also addressed the ceremony and saluted the sacrifice of soldiers killed in combat.

“They won’t return but thanks to them many returned. Thanks to them tens of thousands of civilians were saved,” he said, noting the continued pain for the families of those killed. “It is always present and never rests.”

He said the Israel Defense Forces were currently dealing with threats on several fronts and hailed the generations of soldiers who have served in the military.

“The thwarting of terror continues every day, from north to south, and IDF units defend the citizens of the country on the roads and intersections of Judea and Samaria and along the borders,” he said, using the biblical name for the West Bank.

He added that the IDF “goes beyond the country’s borders to strike in the air, at sea and on land, throughout the Middle East” in the cause of defending Israel.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi addresses the state ceremony for Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, on May 3, 2022. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Along with the ceremony at the Western Wall, Memorial Day events were held at Tel Aviv’s Park HaYarkon, at the Knesset in Jerusalem and in many local communities throughout the nation.

Earlier in the day Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke at a commemoration event at the Yad Lebanim memorial for fallen soldiers in Jerusalem, also attended by Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, top army brass and families of fallen soldiers.

In his speech, Bennett recalled his time serving as a commando in southern Lebanon during the 1990s and mentioned several soldiers he knew who were killed while fighting there.

“We were there in Lebanon, all of us together. Kibbutzniks and city kids, secular and religious, from Beersheba and Haifa, right-wing and left-wing, Jews with non-Jews,” he said in an appeal for unity, as his disparate coalition fights to stay afloat after losing its parliamentary majority last month.

“There, in the bases of southern Lebanon, I fell in love with our wonderful nation,” the premier continued. “Many friends remain there… They were 19 or 20 years old and didn’t return.

“I can’t speak in their name, but I believe if they could, they would ask of us: Keep living together. Don’t allow disagreements to tear you apart from within.”

He warned that internal divides could threaten Israel’s security, saying: “If we allow anger and hatred to grip us, our enemies will take advantage of this to harm us.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the Yad Lebanim memorial for fallen soldiers in Jerusalem, on May 3, 2022. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Fifty-six soldiers have died during their military service since Israel’s last Memorial Day. Another 84 disabled veterans died due to complications from injuries sustained during their service. The numbers brought the total of those who have died during service to the country since 1860 to 24,068.

Thirty-three names were also added to the list of terror victims who perished in attacks in the past year. Another four disabled victims died due to complications from serious injuries they sustained in attacks, bringing the total to 3,199 since Israel was established in 1948.

Counting from the “early days of Zionism” in 1851, the total number of terror victims stands at 4,216, according to Israel’s National Insurance Institute.

On Wednesday, a second two-minute siren will sound at 11 a.m., launching the daytime commemoration ceremonies for fallen soldiers centered on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl. A ceremony commemorating terror victims will be held at 1 p.m.

At 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Memorial Day will end with the national torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl that will usher in Israel’s 74th Independence Day.

Memorial Day, established in 1951 by then-prime minister and defense minister David Ben-Gurion, was set for the 4th of Iyar on the Jewish calendar, the day before Independence Day.

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