Nation mourns 23,169 casualties of war, terrorism

Ya’alon to bereaved families: When the siren pierces the air, your personal loss becomes everyone’s loss.

Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is set to pay tribute to the 23,169 casualties of war and terrorism who have fallen since 1860. On Sunday evening, events marking the Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Terrorism will be held around the country.
A minute-long siren will ring out on Sunday at 8 p.m., marking the start of Remembrance Day. A two-minute siren will be heard on Monday at 11 a.m., marking the start of official memorial ceremonies held at 52 military cemeteries.
The Defense Ministry said 57 newly fallen had been added to the casualty count since Remembrance Day 2013, and that an additional 50 disabled IDF veterans have died due to their disabilities.
The number of bereaved family members stands at 17,038, of which 2,141 are orphans and 4,966 are IDF widows.
The Defense Ministry is preparing for the arrival of more than a million-and a-half people at military cemeteries across the country.
In a letter sent to bereaved families on Friday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon wrote: “The air raid sirens that will piece the air on the eve of Remembrance Day will be the sign that transforms personal loss, which is so agonizing, to everyone’s loss. It seems that there is no Israeli citizen who has not experienced bereavement, whether it’s personal or through knowing friends who fell.”
Soldiers who sacrificed everything leave a vacuum that will never be filled, Ya’alon said, adding that “it’s difficult to describe in words the depth of the pain. How much they are missed. The feeling of missing them, which envelopes you, the family members, every day and every hour. The sorrow and grief, which envelop you day and night, and do not let up, filling up the whole land.”
Israel marks its 66th year of independence this week, he said, “but unfortunately, we have not reached the end of our travails and we have not reached tranquility. We will not be deterred. We’ll continue to seek peace, but we’ll cut off the hand of those who seek our demise.”
Ya’alon lit a virtual candle on Thursday, using a Facebook application to mark Remembrance Day, and said that “remembering the fallen is a moral debt we all have, since through their deaths, they promised us life.”
On Wednesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz placed a flag on the gravestone of a fallen soldier at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
“The gravestones of the fallen look similar, and the earth that covers them is the same earth – the soil of Israel that they loved – but each and every one of the soldiers buried here is a unique part of Israeli society,” Gantz said. “They united for one common goal – safeguarding the security of the State of Israel.”