Ceremonies across the country pay tribute to Israel’s fallen

Official state ceremonies were held Tuesday evening at the Western Wall, and Wednesday morning at Mount Herzl.

April 18, 2018 20:03
3 minute read.
An Israeli soldier sits by a grave on Mount Herzl during Remembrance Day on April 18th, 2018.

An Israeli soldier sits by a grave on Mount Herzl during Remembrance Day on April 18th, 2018.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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Israelis from all walks of life attended Memorial Day ceremonies on Yom HaZikaron to honor 23,645 fallen members of the armed forces and victims of terror who have lost their lives since 1860.

Official state ceremonies were held Tuesday evening at the Western Wall, and Wednesday morning at Mount Herzl. Speaking at the Western Wall ceremony, President Reuven Rivlin told bereaved families that “We will not stop laboring even for a moment for the country your children fought for. [We will] join hands in the name of the understanding that we are all brothers, again, and again, and again.”

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Wednesday morning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the public figures and bereaved families who were present at the ceremony that began immediately after a siren signifying a state-wide moment of silence ended.

“Whoever murdered our sons, meant to murder our existence as a country. And this country will continue to exist, with the help of God, for another 7000 years. All of us - Jews, Druze, Christians, Muslims, Beduin and Circassians, all stand together against the supporters of terror who threaten to destroy us, and together, we will continue to beat them. [...]During times of tribulation, we must stand as a fortified wall against our enemies.”

The Shin Bet and the Israel Police both held ceremonies in honor of their own fallen men and women.

As of 2018, 1,485 members of the police force have lost their lives in service to Israel. At the ceremony in their honor at Har Herzl on Wednesday, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich addressed the unique contribution of the police forces to the protection of Israel.

“On this occasion we remember our comrades who fell … in the struggle [to protect] the state’s borders,” he said. “The faces of the fallen are the faces of society, from all sects and communities: police officers, soldiers, and volunteers, from all ranks of the organization.”

The Shin Bet’s ceremony was held at the agency’s headquarters, and highlighted the anonymity of many of the Shin Bet’s fallen, a byproduct of the nature of their positions.

“We are thankful for the devotion and courage of the [fallen] Shin Bet personnel, to whom the Israeli public is indebted, in most cases, without knowing a thing about their actions and their contributions to the security of the people and the state,” said Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman.

Different denominations of Israeli society also took part in the commemoration. Hundreds of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) mourners attended a remembrance ceremony for fallen Haredi soldiers in Bnei-Brak Wednesday afternoon.

“Ultra-Orthodox service in the IDF is not self-evident. Our duty as a country is to support the Haredi soldiers and fallen soldiers,” said Likud MK Ofir Akunis at the ceremony, reminding those in attendance that despite the many rifts between ultra-Orthodox and secular Israelis, “We are all one nation.”

At a ceremony organized by Masa Israel for diaspora Jewry, held in English at the Latrun Yad La-Shiryon memorial Tuesday evening, Education Minister Naftali Bennett addressed the attendees and lamented the lives of 68 soldiers lost in the past year. He shared the story of Sgt. Sean Carmeli, an American Jew who made aliya and fell in the 2014 Gaza war, and whose family was also in attendance.

The country also saw a number of more unusual ceremonies organized by independent organizations, each of which spoke to particular denominations of the Israeli public.

The NGO Resisim held a ceremony devoted to PTSD victims and their families, acknowledging the oft overlooked pain these individuals carry with them, potent wounds that are not always visible to the eye.

Two NGOs that promote Jewish-Arab reconciliation organized a binational ceremony in Tel Aviv which was also attended by Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel.

Throughout the numerous and diverse ceremonies, many speakers took it upon themselves to look towards the future, in addition to remembering the past. One message that was reiterated more often than others was that “a strong Israel is a united Israel”. Opposition leader Itzhak Herzog phrased it thus at a ceremony in Herzliya Wednesday morning:

“Remember that all of us here continue to fight for our right to live in this land, to raise our children here each according to his beliefs and worldview. Within the silence of the cemeteries, we are all one human tapestry. [Let us] preserve this tapestry on ordinary days, too, so that it will not rip, and so that it will not unravel.”

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