Saluting Israel’s fallen

When we come together to share the grief of Iris Eden and all those who have lost loved ones – the nation of Israel is most united.

Memorial Day 2019 in Israel    (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Memorial Day 2019 in Israel
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
The State of Israel bows its head today to remember 23,741 fallen soldiers and 3,150 terror victims, and pay tribute to them for making the ultimate sacrifice. In Hebrew, the day is called Yom Hazikaron – Remembrance Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism.
Remembrance Day officially began Tuesday night with a state ceremony at the Western Wall, where a minute of silence was observed in memory of the fallen after a siren at 8 p.m.
Another siren will blare Wednesday morning at 11 a.m., when most Israelis stop whatever they’re doing to pause and recall loved ones, relatives and friends – and people they didn’t know. This year, the sirens wailing are especially eerie, because they come just days after a ceasefire was declared on Monday, following two days in which sirens sounded incessantly as Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets rained on southern Israel.
Our hearts go out to the families of Israel’s latest four fatalities as a result of Gaza rockets: Moshe Agadi, 58, a father of four, and Ziad al-Hamamda, 47, a Bedouin father of seven, both killed by rockets on Ashkelon; Moshe Feder, 68, a father of two and grandfather killed on a road near the Gaza border; and Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, 21, an American-Israeli father of two killed in a rocket attack on Ashdod.
 In a poignant interview on Monday, Iris Eden told Army Radio how her “two great loves went up in flames, one in a helicopter and one in a car.” Her husband, 44-year-old Maj. (res.) Yasys Eden of Ramat Hasharon, was killed in the 1997 helicopter disaster together with 72 other soldiers. Then on Sunday, Feder – her partner for the last 17 years from Kfar Saba – was hit by a Kornet anti-tank missile fired by Hamas while driving his car.
When we come together to share the grief of Iris Eden and all those who have lost loved ones – the nation of Israel is most united.
President Reuven Rivlin yesterday said kaddish at the grave on Mount Herzl of German-born Zvi Fred Gross, a Holocaust survivor and Etzel fighter who was one of some 811 soldiers killed before the establishment of the state, and whose place of burial was found by an organization named “Giving a Face to the Fallen.”
“For me, Freddy was one of the heroes of that time, and he lives with me as an example to follow,” Rivlin said. “Thanks to him and to people like him, the State of Israel was established.”
In a special message to IDF commanders and soldiers published in Ma’ariv, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi wrote: “On the eve of Independence Day, when flags fly at half-mast, we feel pride over the achievements of the state and the IDF’s part in it.
Standing upright, knowing that justice is on our side, we will continue the battle to secure our independence, and our right to live in safety and flourish in the Land of Israel.”
The person aptly chosen to say Yizkor, the memorial prayer, at tonight’s torchlighting ceremony on Mount Herzl – which serves as a bridge between Remembrance Day and Israel’s 71st birthday – is Shimon Baumel, the brother of Sgt. Zachary Baumel, who was buried there on April 4 after his remains were recovered in Syria with the aid of Russia – 37 years after he and two comrades, Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, went missing in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in Lebanon.
This year, three young Israelis – brothers Natan and Shabi Spero and their cousin Ariyel Maresky – have established The Dam HaMaccabim Project to distribute nationwide 30,000 of the Israeli-grown memorial flowers known as Red Everlasting (Blood of the Maccabees), to replace the floral stickers usually worn on Remembrance Day. 
“According to tradition,” Yaffa Abadi writes in The Jerusalem Report, “wherever a Maccabi warrior fell, his blood was absorbed into the depths of the land, and from it sprung the beautiful flower with a blood-red blossom.”
As we mourn our fallen before celebrating Israel’s 71st birthday, it is worth bearing Maresky’s words in mind: “Our goal is to remember and to remind ourselves that we are all part of one living human tapestry. We seek to strengthen the unseverable bond that has united our people since the beginning.”