Among countless Memorial Day events taking place around the country on Tuesday evening was a ceremony in Jerusalem dedicated to commemorating ultra-Orthodox Israel Defense Forces soldiers who died in battle.
Hundreds of members of bereaved families attended the event, along with Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, and members of the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda battalion.
The ceremony, now in its third year, focused on the connection between Haredi soldiers and all segments of Israeli society. It was organized by the Netzah Yehuda Association, which helps Haredi soldiers in the IDF.
“We bereaved parents have been chosen by Divine Providence to withstand this test of faith,” said Rabbi Reuven Bitton, father of fallen IDF soldier Eliyahu Bitton.
“We thank the Creator, who gives us the strength to deal with our grief, pain, and loss. May it be His will that we merit seeing the vision of the resurrection of the dead,” he added.
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 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.
In all, 43 new names were added over the past year to the roster of 23,928 soldiers who died defending the country. They include 69 disabled veterans who died due to complications from injuries sustained during their service.
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.
Michael Bachner contributed to this report.