Defense officials to weigh Memorial Day-Independence Day lockdown, report says

Officials from National Security Council and Defense Ministry said considering strict restrictions amid fears of crowding, infections at cemeteries and memorial ceremonies

Ahead of Memorial Day events, IDF soldiers put flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers in Mount Herzl Military Cemetery,  Jerusalem, April 30, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ahead of Memorial Day events, IDF soldiers put flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers in Mount Herzl Military Cemetery, Jerusalem, April 30, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Officials from the National Security Council and Defense Ministry are reportedly set to meet on Wednesday night to discuss a lockdown from the eve of Memorial Day on April 27th until the end of Independence Day on April 29th.

Defense officials are concerned about crowding at cemeteries where bereaved families and many others traditionally gather to grieve on Memorial Day for Israelis felled by war and terror attacks, Channel 12 reported.

The Defense Ministry is preparing to perform all state ceremonies at cemeteries for mourners who will not be able to attend.

A military representative, a Defense Ministry representative and an IDF rabbi will be present at each cemetery. They will recite the kaddish prayer in memory of every fallen soldier and place a flower and pennant on every grave.

People stand in silence next to graves of Israeli soldiers at the Mt Hezl miitary cemetery in Jerusalem, as a two minute siren sounded across Israel, marking Memorial Day which commemorates Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror. April 18, 2018.(Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The main ceremony at the Western Wall on the eve of Memorial Day will be limited to 20 participants, including IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and President Reuven Rivlin, and will be broadcast live for the public.

At Mount Herzl’s Memorial Hall a soldier will light a candle for each of the fallen and the kaddish prayer will be recited for their families.

Last month, Culture Minister Miri Regev announced that the Independence Day torch lighting ceremony will be held without spectators for the first time in Israel’s 72-year history.

Regev said the event, scheduled for April 28, would be broadcast on television and online and promised that it would still be done “in a dignified and emotional way that will express the varied voices in Israeli society.”

For the ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl national cemetery, organizers traditionally choose participants who have made a unique contribution to society and give them the honor of lighting torches.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara attend the Jewish Moroccan celebration of Mimouna, in Hadera on April 17, 2017. (Ido Erez/POOL)

The event is normally open to the public and attended by hundreds of dignitaries.

Earlier Tuesday, Israel went under lockdown for the second time in a week as authorities sought to prevent people taking part in celebrations for the end of the Passover holiday and the Mimouna festival, fearing gatherings could cause a spike in coronavirus infections.

From Tuesday at 5 p.m. until Thursday at 5 a.m., Israelis are barred from leaving their hometowns, and in the case of Jerusalem, the neighborhoods in which they live, according to the restrictions.

Some 9,000 police and Border Police are enforcing the lockdown and 44 roadblocks are being set up on intercity roads. The police effort was expected to intensify Wednesday evening for the start of Mimouna, a North African holiday that normally sees people hosting large gatherings and traveling between homes.

Bakeries and restaurants will remain closed until Thursday morning at 2 a.m., though supermarkets will be permitted to operate from Wednesday evening and food deliveries are permitted. This was to prevent crowds from gathering after Passover ends to purchase bread and other “unleavened” goods that many traditionally refrain from consuming during the holiday.

Public transportation has been canceled until Thursday at 5 a.m.

The rules do not apply to Arab communities.

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