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When the nation bows its head Sunday evening for Remembrance Day it will be mourning the 22,305 men 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.
In the past year, 233 soldiers died during their service to the state, including 119 during the Second Lebanon War. The figure includes all soldiers who died during their military service. Remembrance Day officially begins at 8 p.m. Sunday when a one-minute siren will sound across the country. Acting President Dalia Itzik will open the official government ceremony at the Western Wall, attended by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi as well as representatives of bereaved parents.
On Tuesday, the main memorial will take place at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery. A two-minute siren will sound at 11 a.m. and a 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.
In honor of Remembrance Day, the Defense Ministry has placed a miniature flag and black ribbon on the graves of all the fallen soldiers in military cemeteries across the country. Last Sunday, Ashkenazi laid a flag on the grave of the last soldier to have died in the line of duty. - St.-Sgt. Matan Baskind who was killed in a car accident two weeks ago.
"Laying flags on the graves of IDF soldiers - a few days before Remembrance Day and Independence Day - is a way for us soldiers and friends to express our feelings to our comrades that were killed defending our nation and land," Ashkenazi said while standing over Baskind's grave.
This year is also the fourth year that the Defense Ministry has provided a service to assist people in locating graves of the fallen. It not only provides the block and parcel of a fallen soldier's grave, but also gives a map of the best route to take from the gates of the military cemeteries.
The service is available on a special Web site sponsored by the Defense Ministry's Department for Commemorating Soldiers and programmed by a civilian firm and can be reached at: www.izkor.gov.il/izkor80.htm
Ahead of Remembrance Day, the Defense Ministry began switching the tombstones of the soldiers killed during the Second Lebanon War. Following their burial, the tombstones read that the soldiers "fell in battle in Southern Lebanon" but did not contain the word "war" since the government had never officially recognized this past summer's conflict with Hizbullah as a war.
Under pressure by bereaved parents, the government last month decided to call the conflict the "Second Lebanon War." As a result, the Defense Ministry began the process of switching the tombstones which now read: "Fell in battle in Southern Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War."