IDF special forces troops in training exercise 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters Photographer / Reuters)
Israeli casualties of major wars, military engagements, operations, and
enemy terrorist attacks are remembered on Remembrance Day.
The memorial rolls include Israel
Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, airmen, and sailors; fallen members of
the Mossad intelligence service, the Israel Police, the Border Police,
the Israel Prisons Service, the Shin Bet Security services, and other
(pre-state) Jewish Brigades and Legions; and contemporary heroes of the
state and civilian terror victims.
In a small nation of a few
million people, a relatively high percentage of Israelis have been
killed, disabled, or wounded in seven major wars, varied conflicts, IDF
military actions, and terror campaigns suffered by the civilian
The holiday opens with a sunset siren the preceding
evening at 8 p.m. The siren is heard all over the country and
lasts for one minute, during which Israelis stop activity and driving
and stand in silence, commemorating the fallen and showing respect.
religious Jews say prayers for the souls of the fallen soldiers. The
official ceremony to mark the day occurs at the Western Wall, and the
flag of Israel is lowered to half-staff.
A two-minute siren is
heard at 11 a.m. on the holiday. Many Israelis visit the resting places
of loved ones and attend public and private ceremonies. The day
officially draws to a close between 7–8 p.m. with the
official ceremony of Independence Day on Mount Herzl, when the
flag of Israel is returned to full staff.
As the holiday closes, the mood brightens and Israelis celebrate their national Independence Day.
Scheduling Remembrance Day immediately prior to Independence Day is intended to remind
people of the price paid for independence by the sacrifice of patriots.
This transition shows the importance of the day among Israelis, most
who have served in the armed forces or have a connection with people who
were killed during their military service.
For a tiny nation to
suffer tens of thousands of deaths, wounds, and disabilities—and yet
maintain its resolute defense posture and confidence in itself against a
range of enemies—is impressive, even awe-inspiring.
worth respecting, and may inspire Americans as well to ponder how they
commemorate Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Independence Day
holidays in the "land of the free and home of the brave."
Americans believe that they are fortunate to live in the United States.
Millions more immigrants agree and vote with their feet—moving there
every year, and all Americans are aware of our blessings, most formally
celebrated on Thanksgiving Day.
May Americans more formally
honor the sacrifice of those who gave their lives, or limbs, not only on holidays, but also in the commitment to the families of the fallen,
to the wounded warriors, and to the project of national security for
which they dedicated their lives.
One ponders an American national moment of silence, or some act of unifying respect from sea to shining sea.
has given the world many gifts of social and economic innovations.
Israeli national respect for their remembered heroes and honored fellow
citizens is another meaningful model for us all.Larry Greenfield is Executive Director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (www.jinsa.org).