Israeli leaders and soldiers stood in silence and bowed their heads for one minute at the Western Wall on Sunday evening as a memorial siren blared across the country commemorating Remembrance Day.
The ceremony, which was attended by President Reuven Rivlin, Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, marked the beginning of the day which honors the 23,544 security forces who have died defending the State of Israel since the beginning of the modern Jewish movement in the Land of Israel in 1860. The day also honors victims of terror.Over the past year, another 97 soldiers and officers serving in Israel’s security forces, which includes the IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the Mossad, police officers, and officers of Israel’s Prisons Services, have joined the ranks of Israel’s fallen, including 37 wounded veterans who succumbed to their wounds, according to numbers released by the Defense Ministry ahead of Remembrance Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism.Lighting the memorial flame, Rivlin said that ensuring the safety and security of Israel and its citizens, along with that of its soldiers, was the country’s first priority and that 50 years after the reunification of Jerusalem, Israel still remembers the price that must be paid for the existence of the State of Israel.Addressing the bereaved families, Rivlin said that “there is a price, and we, in awe and terror, are willing to pay that price. Dear bereaved families, you paid the price. The price of our liberty is purchased in blood,” he said, adding that “the IDF is all of us: it defends us, and so we defend it. We must always remember: together we fall, and together we stand.”Rivlin emphasized Israel’s commitment to the memory of fallen soldiers, stating that “the true staying power of a nation grows from the living memory of our roots, of our history, and our tradition. The living memory of our heroes. Not only black-bordered pictures on the wall, rather, a living heritage, a torch that lights our way, the story of their life and of their death.”Following Rivlin’s speech, Eisenkot said, “the Israeli people bows its head in memory of its commanders and soldiers who gave their lives to protect the homeland.We bow in the memory of our soldiers who embarked on their missions with commitment to the lives of all Israeli citizens.Those who acted with ingenuity, with level-headedness and with supreme heroism – and sacrificed their lives for us.We will bow our heads and remember the sons and the daughters of the Israeli people, who acted with courage and boundless dedication to the very end.”“The heritage of Israel and the IDF has been written by brave warriors who dared to fight even in impossible situations, who stood alone against many opponents – it’s a legacy of persistence and uncompromising fighting until the mission was completed,” Eisenkot added.There are a total of 9,157 bereaved parents in Israel, thousands of bereaved siblings, 4,881 widows and 1,843 orphans under the age of 30 according to the National Insurance Institute. In addition 3,117 civilians have been killed in hostile acts such as terrorist attacks since the birth of the state. On Monday at 11 a.m., a two-minute-long siren will mark the beginning of official memorial ceremonies which will be held around the country, including at the Mount Herzl military cemetery, which will also be where the official ceremony to honor those killed in terrorist attacks will take place at 1 p.m.Remembrance Day will finish at 8 p.m. on Monday evening with the torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl, marking the opening of Israel’s 69th Independence Day celebrations.
President Reuven Rivlin at Israel"s Memorial Day ceremony (credit: GPO)