“For He hath delivered me out of all trouble; and mine eye hath gazed upon mine enemies.” Psalms 54:9 (The Israel Bible™)
At formal ceremonies, private gatherings and quiet visits to military cemeteries around the country, more than a million Israelis paused this Monday to remember 23,544 IDF soldiers who died during their military service. Since last Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day), a total of 60 soldiers died and 37 disabled veterans succumbed to their war injuries and were recognized as fallen soldiers.
Israelis also remember 4,128 people who were murdered in terror attacks from the beginning of the Zionist project in the Land of Israel and until the present time. Among those, a total of 100 Israelis were murdered outside of Israel and another 122 were foreign citizens on Israeli soil. A total of 11 citizens died from terror assaults since last year, the latest being Hanna Bladon, a British student who was stabbed to death during an attack in the Jerusalem Light Rail about two weeks ago.
At 10 am, Israelis around the country paused for a two-minute memorial siren. President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot addressed more than 1000 bereaved family members at the national cemetery at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem opened the formal observance of Memorial Day at the Western Wall. Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, President of the Supreme Court Miriam Naor and Chief Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh were also in attendance.
Speaking at Mount Herzl, Netanyahu said that the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers remained a necessary for preserving the lives of Israelis but also to be able to achieve peace.
“Our lives continue to depend on the willingness of our sons and daughters to sacrifice themselves, and I know that this sacrifice is a necessary condition not only for our existence but also for achieving peace with our neighbors,” Netanyahu stated.
“I promise that we will not rest until we return Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul home,” added Netanyahu, referring to both fallen soldiers still in the hands of Hamas since 2014 Operation Protective Edge.
“Tonight, when the flag returns to the top of the mast, we will know that the State of Israel is a true consolation, the realization of many generations’ dream, and a model to the nations.”
Pnina Seror, daughter of private Pinchas Seror who fell on November 1956, lit the torch of remembrance at the Mount Herzel Ceremony, prior to reading of the memorial prayer “Yizkor,” the reciting of the mourner’s Kaddish and national anthem “Hatikva.” A total of 13 wreaths were laid by Israel institutions including, “Yad Labanim” honoring the fallen soldiers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Jewish Agency, and Widows and Orphans of the IDF.
The Ministry of Defense numbered 9,157 bereaved parents of fallen IDF soldiers, 4,881 widows of the IDF, and 1,843 orphans below 30 years old. The number of bereaved siblings and orphans of above 30 years old add to thousands more. According to the National Insurance Institute, 939 parents lost a child in terror attacks, 826 people are widowed and a total of 109 lost both parents to terror.
In addition to the central ceremony, more than 50 military cemeteries and hundreds of other sites accommodated many Israelis coming to pay their respects at the graves of the fallen around the country, including Kiryat Shaul and Kfar Saba cemeteries.
“Generation after generation, we are forced again and again to accompany the best of our sons and daughters, young and talented, […] fallen in the prime of their life,” said Defense Minister Liberman at the ceremony in the military cemetery in Kiryat Shaul.
“This is the terrible and painful price of the Jewish people’s decision to be the master of their own fate, to return to their homeland and to realize their life and culture within as a nation, sovereign and free,” he said.
Liberman added that out of this pain and sorrow grows the determination to guard the existence and well being of the State of Israel, and perseverance to protect its security and values.