In first, hundreds gather in Jerusalem to honor ultra-Orthodox fallen soldiers
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In first, hundreds gather in Jerusalem to honor ultra-Orthodox fallen soldiers

Haredi public and media take increased role in Memorial Day events, illustrating gradual change in community’s view of the state

Presenters at a memorial event for ultra-Orthodox soldiers in Jerusalem on May 7, 2019. (screen capture: Facebook/ Bogrei Netzah Yehuda)
Presenters at a memorial event for ultra-Orthodox soldiers in Jerusalem on May 7, 2019. (screen capture: Facebook/ Bogrei Netzah Yehuda)

Among countless Memorial Day events taking place around the country on Tuesday evening was a first-of-its-kind ceremony in Jerusalem dedicated to commemorating ultra-Orthodox Israel Defense Forces soldiers who died in battle and Haredi terror victims.

Some 800 members of the ultra-Orthodox community and soldiers attended the event at the Heichal Shlomo Jewish heritage center, including both chief rabbis of Jerusalem, Aryeh Stern and Shlomo Amar, bereaved families, senior IDF officials, rabbis, and members of the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda battalion, which organized the ceremony, Channel 12 reported.

Two of the battalion’s members, Sgt. Yosef Cohen and Staff Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef, were killed in December 2018 in a terrorist shooting attack near the Givat Assaf settlement outpost in the central West Bank.

In all, 95 new names were added over the past year to the roster of 23,741 soldiers who died defending the country. They include 40 disabled veterans who passed away due to complications from injuries sustained during their service. Sixteen names were also added to the list of terror victims who perished in attacks, bringing the total to 3,150.

A photo composite shows Sgt. Yosef Cohen, left, and Staff Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef of the IDF’s Kfir Brigade who were killed on December 13, 2018, in a terrorist shooting attack near the Givat Assaf settlement outpost in the central West Bank. (Israel Defense Forces)

The ceremony represents an ongoing change in the way the ultra-Orthodox public regards Memorial Day. In the past, many in that community did not take an active role in national memorial events and individuals were often filmed refusing to stand still during the sirens that wail throughout Israel on twice during the day.

Traditionally, many ultra-Orthodox have been reluctant in the past to identify with the State of Israel due to its secular government, among other reasons. Some sects are non-Zionist or even anti-Zionist.

All major ultra-Orthodox news websites dedicated their main headlines Tuesday night to Memorial Day events and published various features on fallen troops and terror victims.

Attendees at a memorial event for ultra-Orthodox soldiers in Jerusalem on May 7, 2019. (screen capture: Facebook/ Bogrei Netzah Yehuda)

The Behadrei Haredim ultra-Orthodox website on Tuesday said that almost all Haredi politicians attended official memorial ceremonies throughout the country.

The commemoration 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, which begins immediately after Memorial Day.

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