The Hebrew press joins with families and friends of fallen soldiers across Israel to mark Memorial Day, highlighting the jarring shift set to take place Wednesday evening as the nation transitions from mourning and sadness over the death of its loved ones to celebrations of the country’s 67th Independence Day.
In Yedioth Ahronoth, a large image of two female soldiers, dressed in full combat gear, standing silent during last night’s traditional memorial siren is situated alongside an equal-sized picture of two young girls waving an Israeli flag against the backdrop of a seemingly endless wheat field. “In tears,” reads the headline beneath the two troops, the underline detailing the memorial services for the nation’s 23,320 fallen. “And in pride,” the title of the banner-waving girls reads, the sub-head highlighting the festivities set to commence after Memorial Day comes to a close.
The front page of Israel Hayom echoes the theme of Yedioth’s, with a photograph of IDF soldiers saluting the graves of their comrades placed opposite an image of kids waving miniature Israeli flags as they climb atop a haystack. “From tears to celebrations,” the main headline similarly announces, in a pat attempt to reconcile the two deeply distinct sets of emotions kindled in millions of thousands of Israelis over Wednesday and Thursday.
Haaretz leads with President Reuven Rivlin’s Memorial Day speech at the Western Wall last night, during which the Israeli leader urged the nation’s citizens to fight for the country’s character, not just for its survival. “The pain crosses throughout Israel, but does not divide it,” the paper quotes Rivlin as saying. “There is not a single community [in the nation] that hasn’t lost someone,” Rivlin says regarding soldiers killed during last summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Yedioth’s inner pages are devoted to a series of op-eds and analyses discussing the Jewish state’s unique characteristics, challenges, and expectations for the future. “Israel is the craziest nation in the world,” writer Eitan Haber. “[It] begs for peace, but knows the secret of war, cries for its sons.” Contributor Yoaz Hendel calls on the country’s residents to be “Zionist, without cynicism,” and recognize that the 67-year-old state’s greatest achievement was not its striking contributions to the advancement of technology, worldwide water conservation, or medical science, but the ability to provide a home to so many people of diverse backgrounds, to live together “despite this nation’s historical tendency to burn down the house.”
Israel Hayom dedicates a small portion of its third page to IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot’s official Memorial Day statement to active duty soldiers. “We, who remain with the longing, carry their memory with us and feel the pain left by the void of their departure,” he writes. “Their memory continues to guide us, as we carry out their will: to protect the country and provide security to all of its citizens and residents.”
The paper’s often-bland inner pages today bring a fascinating feature on young Israeli water polo competitors who despite their display of extraordinary abilities and consequent right to be exempted from army service nevertheless still insist on enrolling in the IDF’s top units. The feature follows the life and untimely death of four water polo prodigies, all of whom were offered official sports scholarships in place of IDF service, but chose to join the military instead.
In Haaretz, reporter Ilan Lior details a disturbing story about three African migrants who only recently left Israel at the government’s urging and were executed by members of the Islamic State terrorist group in Libya. The three were recognized by family members residing in Israel after the Islamic State released video footage of the brutal killings. One of the executed former migrants was held in the Holot detention center in Israel’s south, Lior reports.
Yedioth’s quirky back page reminds readers to pack an umbrella ahead of Independence Day picnics and barbecues, as weather forecasters predict heavy rain showers across the country. A calorie chart is also offered by the paper, reminding celebrators that Independence Day comes with a high price to your gut. The paper goes on to bring us an inside report from the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, where the traditional meat-filled, Independence Day feast’s menu will receive a significant makeover, with guests being served only strictly vegetarian food. The paper explains that President Rivlin gave up meat when he was 35 years old, after visiting a slaughterhouse. The traumatic experience convinced Rivlin to become a vegetarian, and now, years later, he insists on a meat-free party at his Jerusalem home.