Remembrance Day: How to observe safely amid COVID-19 in Israel

Last year the Defense Ministry made the controversial decision to close cemeteries out of concern of coronavirus, but this year cemeteries will be open - with some restrictions.

Yom HaZikaron Mount Herzl 3 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Yom HaZikaron Mount Herzl 3 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Defense Ministry released guidelines for the commemoration of Remembrance Day during the coronavirus pandemic.
This year's Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Terrorism will be especially difficult due to the limitations of coronavirus, but it appears that it will be better than last year, as the Defense Ministry's advisories have taken into consideration the feelings of bereaved families and the improving pandemic conditions.
"After a hard year, we will do everything to allow personal and national remembrance to be commemorated - while protecting public health," said Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
On Remembrance Day itself, only bereaved families will be allowed to go to cemeteries, and from April 9 until 13, the general public will be welcome to visit military cemeteries to pay their respects to the fallen. Visitors will be met by workers from the ministry and IDF soldiers, who will provide them flowers and water.
A ceremony will be held on the eve of Remembrance Day, but will be limited to Health Ministry recommended safety numbers, and only to be open to those with the Green Passport.
The Defense Ministry expressed concern that those who oversee ceremonies act in consideration of mourning families, and indicated that health regulations should be balanced with concern of embarrassment or hurt feelings. The ministry also asked the public to ensure that bereaved families were respected by avoiding unnecessary gatherings and attendance. "I call on the public to give all their respect to the bereaved families, and to watch their health by following the health guidelines," said Gantz.
The Defense Ministry made the controversial decision last year to close cemeteries out of concern of coronavirus transmission. The closure created fears of physical confrontations between families, and letters were sent to political and military leaders threatening that bereaved parents would commit suicide on the graves of their children if the cemeteries were not opened.
Remembrance Day is Israel's national day of commemoration for IDF soldiers, police officers, prison guards, intelligence agents and pre-state militiamen who died protecting Israel. Civilian victims of terrorism are also remembered on this day.
Last year, 28 IDF soldiers died, adding to the 23,816 men and women remembered last year for falling in the course of their service.
According to the most recent Health Ministry numbers, the coronavirus death toll in Israel is at 6,114, with 499 patients in serious condition, and 204 intubated. Tests are yielding a 1.6% positive result, likely taken into consideration by the Defense Ministry in formulating this year's Remembrance Day guidelines.