The State of Israel remembered its fallen IDF soldiers and victims of terror this week.
The nation fell silent too as an air raid siren sounded for one minute followed by a moment of silence at sundown on Tuesday.
Around 50 official ceremonies took place while an anticipated 1.5 million people visited 52 military cemeteries and hundreds of burial plots across the country over a 24-hour period.
Some 23,700 IDF soldiers have been killed since Jews moved to pre-state Palestine and 3,150 civilians have lost their lives in terror attacks since the establishment of the State.
Yesterday, the nation again fell silent at 11am for a two-minute siren sounded across the country.
From bustling markets to cafes and highways Israelis paused to remember those that have fallen.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi joined politicians, Israel’s judiciary and victim’s families at a memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers at Mount Herzl military cemetery, Jerusalem.
Netanyahu vowed to ensure Iran will not outraging nuclear weapons after they announced a partial withdrawal from its nuclear deal with world powers in response to US pressure.
“We will continue to fight those who seek to take our lives, and we will thrust our roots even deeper into the soil of our homeland,” he noted.
A memorial ceremony also took place at the Jewish Agency Plaza in Jerusalem commemorating Jews murdered in anti-Semitic incidents around the world.
Focusing on victims in United States synagogues, US Ambassador David Friedman, Jeff Finklestein, Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Federation director and Jeff Finkelstein and Marnie Feinberge, representing victims’ families of the Pittsburgh terror attack, lit a memorial beacon.
“This year we have suffered a lot of grief and pain in the State of Israel and Diaspora,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog. “On this day, Jews in the Diaspora stand together with Israelis in their grief, and we in Israel stand together with Jews in the Diaspora in their grief.”
“Anti-Semites do not care about the differences between us and they do not distinguish between labels like Chabad or Conservative or Reconstructionist,” said Finkelstein. “In their eyes, we are all Jews.”
Israel Police held a ceremony at Mount Herzl cemetery to commemorate 1,498 fallen officers.
Police Commissioner Moti Cohen noted, “The history of Israel is accompanied by an unceasing struggle for the existence of the state, which is bound by a high price of blood. The Israel Police paid part of this heavy price and has had an important role in shaping the democratic character of the State of Israel.”
Rivlin and Kochavi gave moving addresses at the main memorial event at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening.
Rivlin recalled the return of Zechariah Baumel, missing in action for 37 years after the Lebanon war in 1982, to be laid to rest last month as an assurance that Israel will not rest until every soldier returns home.
“This is an obligation that we continue to uphold to the families of those missing in action and those whose burial place is unknown,” he said.
Kochavi added, “The highest expression of the sanctity of life is doing all we can to minimise the extent of losses in battle and in peacetime.
“The operational objective is primary, and fort hat we endanger our lives. But refining combat methods as well as improving our training is the will of the fallen and we must work to fulfil it.”
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu spoke at Yad LaBanim Memorial in Jerusalem.
Offering condolences to families of the four Israelis killed during fighting between Israel and Hamas in recent days, he said, “Every victim tears at our heartstrings. Who, more than us, knows this? The pain and longing don’t go away.
“Often, upon hearing the bitter news, relatives of those killed tell me that they need to learn how to breathe again. We do not hesitate to fight, we know that readiness to fight is the guarantee of our fate.
“We owe our survival to those who fell in battle.”
Noting the funeral of Baumel, Netanyahu, like Rivlin, vowed to bring home Israelis held captive behind enemy lines and bodies of IDF soldiers held by Hamas.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Chairwoman of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organisation Tami Shelach participated at the ceremony.
Rivlin also spoke at a ceremony for Etzel fighters who fell in a battle for Malcha village.
Shlomo Goldhor, who participated in the battle, attended with Mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Lion.
“I remember, I am afraid, that even after their fight to establish the State was over, the battle for memory did not end,” Rivlin recalled. “For many years, the dead of the Etzel were not considered fallen Israeli soldiers and were not mentioned in the ‘Yizkor’ prayer. Appreciation for their immense contribution was not to be taken for granted.
“My dear friends, every year I come here to honour the fallen. But memorial ceremonies are not the main thing. Memory must live in our hearts and in our deeds and in our dedication to the State and the people of Israel.”
The president went on to address Ort Minkoff School pupils.
“You, the younger generation allow us to mix memory and hope,” he noted.
“Thanks to you, we see the past through the lens of the future that you are part of. To all our young people, we need you and your dedication, idealism and willingness to contribute. Take part. Join up. Give. Influence.
“Even seventeen-year-olds can change the world.”
In other events, thousands participated in an English-language ceremony at for fallen soldiers and terror victims immigrating to Israel at Latrun.
The service was broadcast to communities and schools in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Uruguay, Ukraine, France, Germany, Australia and England. It will also be translated into French, Spanish, and Russian.
Diaspora Jerry leaders joined 4,000 participants of the Masa program, government officials and families of victims.
Former Labor Party leader and Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan attended.
“The ceremony allows the young Diaspora to be true partners on a day that has tremendous weight in the life of Israeli society,” said Masa Israel Journey CEO Liran Avisar Ben Horin.
He added, “The ceremony has become an important way for Diaspora Jews to mourn the loss of soldiers and victims of terror alongside Israelis. Masa brings thousands of participants from dozens of countries all over the world to experience the Israeli reality during the impactful times of Memorial Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israel.”
In Tel Aviv, the Songs in the Square ceremony took place at Rabin Square attended by the city’s Mayor Ron Huldai and celebrities.
Netanyahu and Rivlin attended the event. Both also were present at a special Songs in Their Memory event in the Knesset.
On Wednesday, a two-minute siren was heard across the country followed by the main memorial service honouring fallen IDF soldiers at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu, Rivlin and Kochavi attended.
A memorial service for victims of terror attacks followed.
By Adam Moses