Overlooking Ayta a-Sha'ab, where their sons fell in the Second Lebanon War, some 15 families gathered Wednesday morning on the 1,008-meter Mount Adir, to mourn.
"Every time we are on this mountain, we look at the places where our soldiers were killed and we remember... the smiling faces, the last phone call, and those who protected this land with their bodies," said David Einhorn, whose 22-year-old son Yonatan, a staff-sergeant with the Paratroopers Brigade's 101st Battalion, was killed in Ayta a-Sha'ab three years ago.
The bereaved parents held their alternative ceremony in response to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's and President Shimon Peres's decision to send representatives to the official ceremony at the capital's Mount Herzl later in the day, instead of attending themselves.
"Today, at Mount Herzl, I will see which politicians remember the three-year anniversary of the war and our children's passing," Einhorn said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak attended the Mount Herzl ceremony.
On Mount Adir, it was the parents who gave one another strength on a difficult day. Rhonda Tsipar of Mitzpe Amuka, between Safed and Rosh Pina, had a son, Yoav, severely wounded in the war. He was a member of the Golani/Carmeli 7002 unit.
"They [bereaved parents] make us stronger being with them... but the amazing thing at this ceremony is the smiles. Everyone moves on, but everyone is still so sad," Tsipar said.
After hearing of the cease-fire to begin the following day, Tsipar, who had two sons in Lebanon, entered her home on August 13, 2006, sighed with relief, and said, "Free at last."
Within moments, she received a message that her son had been wounded. She didn't know which one. Luckily, both are alive today.
Liora Chason of Moshav Na'ama, in the Jordan Valley, received a terrible message on August 13, 2006, that her son Guy, also in the Carmeli unit, had been killed.
"You can find yourself with a bullet in your heart or choose to live life while remembering... You can say 27 times to be strong, but it is still difficult," she said on Wednesday.
Chason recalled that Guy, when called up for reserve service on July 31, 2006, "turned to the same road and said good-bye... My husband... knew this was the last good-bye."
"We are normal people, living life," Chason said.
The bereaved parents plan to turn Mount Adir into a memorial viewpoint for visitors.
"I hope that this event will take place every year and will remain a place for people to come and remember those soldiers," OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said after the ceremony.