Leo Dee to read Yizkor memorial prayer at national ceremony on Independence Day eve

Rabbi who lost wife and daughters in a terror shooting earlier this month has pleaded for Israeli unity in the face of judicial overhaul strife

ֿRabbi Leo Dee holds a press conference in Efrat, on April 10, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/ Flash90)
ֿRabbi Leo Dee holds a press conference in Efrat, on April 10, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/ Flash90)

Rabbi Leo Dee, who lost his wife and two of his daughters in a terror attack earlier this month, will recite the Yizkor memorial prayer at Tuesday evening’s national ceremony marking the transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day, organizers of the event said Sunday.

Lucy Dee, 48, and her daughters Maia Dee, 20, and Rina Dee, 15, were killed by Palestinian terrorists who opened fire at their car as they drove through the northern Jordan Valley in the West Bank on April 7. The daughters were declared dead at the scene, while Lucy was rushed to a hospital in critical condition but died three days later. The shooters remain at large.

The Dee family, residents of the settlement of Efrat just south of Jerusalem, buried Lucy two days after laying to rest Maia and Rina. The family, which immigrated from the UK nine years ago, holds dual citizenship.

At the funeral for his daughters, Dee issued a plea for Israeli unity amid deepening rifts over the government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary, citing the flood of condolences and messages of support he had received, and the large crowd at the funeral.

“When a simple family in Efrat is devastated and the whole country hurts, there is no greater proof of our unity than this,” he said, adding that the real threat to the country came from terrorists “who are prepared to destroy your lives in an instant.”

Memorial Day will commence on Monday evening when a one-minute siren will blare across the country. The following evening, the central torch-lighting ceremony will be held at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem, as the country moves from mourning those killed in military service and terror attacks to celebrating 75 years of independence.

Rita Yahan-Farouz lights a torch during the 74th anniversary Independence Day ceremony, held at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, on May 4, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The usually apolitical ceremony has taken on a different tone this year amid the government’s plans to shackle the judiciary. Opposition Leader Yair Lapid has announced he will not attend the event due to societal divisions he said the government has stirred up with its radical agenda.

The juxtaposition of Memorial Day and Independence Day is a key element of Israelis’ experience of their country’s anniversary, ensuring that no commemoration completely excludes the sacrifice of the fallen and their families, and that the elation of independence is never far removed from an awareness of its cost.

At the same time as the ceremony on Tuesday evening, a mass rally — billed as the largest in Israel’s history — will be held at Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening.

On Saturday evening, tens of thousands of protesters rallied against the government’s contentious overhaul plan, urging politicians to stay clear of cemeteries on Memorial Day, one of Israel’s few national, non-religious holidays, during which large swaths of the Israeli public visit the graves of loved ones and comrades.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant — as well as the opposition’s Lapid and Benny Gantz — last week urged Israelis to set aside their deep differences during Tuesday’s commemorations of the fallen. The Israel Defense Forces chief of staff echoed their plea Sunday morning.

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