Remembrance Day 311.
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The nation bowed its head Sunday evening for Remembrance Day , mourning the 22,867 servicemen and - women who fell defending the land of Israel since 1860 – the year the first Jews left Jerusalem’s Old City walls to settle other parts of the country.
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In the past year, 183 soldiers and security personnel died while serving the state. The figure includes the Prisons Service victims of the Carmel fire.
Remembrance Day officially began at 8 p.m. Sunday when a one-minute siren sounded across the country. President Shimon Peres opened the state ceremony at the Western Wall, which was attended by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and representatives of bereaved families.
"We didn't seek war. It was imposed upon us. But when we were attacked, we didn't have the possibility to lose, even one war. And when we won, we returned to seek peace," Peres said at the ceremony. "We were sober then and we remained prepared today. And in any situation we will not give up the chance of full peace, real peace. And if one opportunity fails, we will look for a new one," the president added.
He also addressed protests in the Middle East saying "in our region today we are hearing the Arab voice that calls for liberation from the yoke of oppression. For democracy in the region. We wish them well in their efforts."
On Monday, when a two-minute siren sounds at 11 a.m. nationwide, the day’s main memorial ceremony will begin at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery. A special ceremony for overseas Mahal volunteers who fought and died during the War of Independence will take place at the Mahal memorial near the Sha’ar Hagai Junction.
Ceremonies will be held at an additional 43 cemeteries, and the Defense Ministry said it expects over 1.5 million people to visit soldiers’ graves throughout the day.
In honor of Remembrance Day, the Defense Ministry has placed a miniature flag and black ribbon on the graves of all fallen soldiers. On Wednesday, Gantz laid a flag on the grave of the latest soldier to have died during his service – Cpl. Niot Watzman from the Golani Brigade, who was killed during a diving accident on vacation in Eilat in April.
“Israel’s renewal was achieved through a rare combination of vision and action, but in order for it to materialize, generations of soldiers and commanders needed to fight and fall,” Gantz said.
This is also the eighth year the Defense Ministry has provided a service to assist people in locating graves of the fallen. It provides the exact location, and gives a map of the best route to take from the cemetery gate.
The ministry has also purchased over 1 million flowers, which it will distribute free at the state cemeteries. The service is available on a special website sponsored by its Department for Commemorating Soldiers and can be accessed at: http://www.izkor.gov.il.