Hundreds of thousands tuned into a Memorial Day service on Monday evening in Latrun — the largest English-language event of its kind — organized by the Masa Israel Journey organization to honor Jewish victims of terror and fallen Israel Defense Forces soldiers who were born overseas.
Organizers said 7,000 people attended the event itself, which included Masa alumni, bereaved families, politicians and Jewish community leaders from across the globe. Hundreds of thousands viewed the livestream of the ceremony, according to a statement by Masa.
“Forever Connected” was the theme of the ceremony, as “an important reminder that we are forever connected through our history and the safety and continued survival of our country,” the statement said.
The lead-up to this year’s Memorial Day has been overshadowed by concern that political turmoil engulfing the country could mar the solemn day’s commemorations.
During the events, the nation stops to commemorate the 24,213 killed in service to the state and the pre-state Jewish community and the 4,255 victims of terror.
During the ceremony, stories were shared of Jews who died in military action and in terror attacks in Israel and abroad.
Nine wreaths were laid by Knesset members and bereaved families to accompany the testimonies.
They included the stories of Joyce Fienberg, a victim of the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh; 2nd Lt. Carmi Elan, a Los Angeles-born pilot who died at 19 during an Air Force training accident in 2008; Shirel Aboukarat, a French-born Border Police officer killed by two terrorists in Hadera in March 2022; Michael Ladygin, a Russian native killed in a terror attack in Ariel in November; Cpt. Alexander Schwartzman, a Ukrainian-born IDF soldier killed in the Second Lebanon War in 2006; and Uriel Bar-Maimon Wolf, an Argentinian-born Border Police officer who was killed by terrorists at the Erez Crossing to Gaza in 2002.
US House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, along with 12 other congressmen who attended the ceremony, laid a wreath for the fallen.
“Carmi is our fourth son; our other three sons were also in the combat units,” said Tod Elan, father of Carmi Elan.
“We are proud of our children and all their choices. Carmi had a giving personality. Throughout his whole life, he always felt responsible for those around him. I remember Carmi every day, not just today. He is always with us,” Elan added.
“The shared fate between Jews around the world and the State of Israel is molded by those who gave their lives in Israel’s wars and also by the terrible sacrifice of the victims of terrorism and antisemitism around the world,” said Doron Almog, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
“Jews in all corners of the world are deeply connected by the commitment to carry on for the lives that were interrupted. It is this commitment to remember our shared history that united us to form the State of Israel so that we may all thrive together,” he told the crowd.
Ofer Gutman, CEO of Masa Israel, called Memorial Day “an essential part of Israel and the Jewish people” and stressed that Jews are a “connected people.”
“We must honor our fallen and we must mourn our losses. The individual stories shared here tonight are connected by the values of love, determination, sacrifice, and commitment. This ceremony is for us to focus on the heroes who gave their ‘last full measure of devotion’ – and they gave it to Israel. To the Jewish people,” he said.
Masa Israel Journey, founded by the Jewish Agency in 2004, works to provide long-term educational programs for young adults aged 16-35, aimed at immersing Diaspora Jews into Israeli society.