Israel Remembers Its Heroes
Main Memorial Day ceremony begins with the first siren Sunday evening, second siren to sound Monday at 11:00 A.M.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 5/8/2011, 7:03 PM / Last Update: 5/9/2011, 9:44 AM
The main ceremony for Memorial Day for the Soldiers Who Fell in Israel's Wars and the Victims of Terror Attacks began at the Kotel plaza at 8:00 P.M.
A 60-second-long siren sounded nationwide, and millions of Israeli citizens stood in honor of the 22,867 people who gave their lives fighting for the homeland, and who were murdered in the terror attacks.
The President, Prime Minister and IDF Chief of Staff are attending the Kotel ceremony, along with bereaved families.
At 4:30 P.M., bereaved families attended a ceremony at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem.
At 9:00 P.M., an evening of songs dedicated to the fallen will begin at the Knesset plaza. The Knesset Speaker, as well as the Minister of Defense and Minister of Welfare, will attend.
On Monday morning, at 11:00 A.M., a second, two-minute siren will sound, as the day's central ceremony for the fallen soldiers will begin at Har Herzl. Two hours later, at 1:00 P.M., the ceremony for terror victims will commence.
Remembrance Day is not a religious holiday but it is marked with an air of spiritual solemnity, including the full participation of rabbis - military and other - who recite prayers for the fallen at the ceremonies.
President Shimon Peres warned Israel's neighbors not to repeat their past mistakes:
I am here to tell you today that Israel is as strong as ever. We were the first in the world to have an "Iron Dome" that can stop missiles. We have the ability to fly to the heights of space, to dive to the depths of the ocean, and to create a viewing eye not only on our borders but also onto new vistas.Wars broke out because the attackers were not aware of Israel's hidden strength. Today, as well, I suggest to those that are looking for war - do not make the same mistake again. Do not overlook our hidden abilities.Israel's strength lies in her justness. We are prepared to physically defend our land, and morally to defend our heritage.The Israeli spirit has a talent to overcome any situation and to prepare for tomorrow.From the founding of the State of Israel until today, in my various positions, I comfort bereaved families. Every visit to a bereaved family is a deep experience. Before I arrive I learn about the personal bravery of the soldier and the battle which took his life. In their home, the photo albums are opened, and together with the family, I follow page after page how their daughters and sons grew, from the cradle to the battle. (...)I see the young men and women, their eyes glowing, full of life and beauty, free and restrained. The house is filled anew with pain. I learn about the mother, the father, the history of the family... I see the fountain from which our greatest sons are drawn. The fountain of Torah and bravery.
The Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, mentioned the upheavals in the Middle East that began in January: "The events that erupted from a reality of oppression and desperation," he said, "give rise to signs of hope, but also destabilize the region and add possible threats to the State of Israel. In view of all this, the IDF must be prepared to deal with an ever-growing variety of threats, in every single front and possibly in all of them at once," he said, quoting an old Israeli saying: "The entire nation is the front."
"Only an army like that," he continued, "will send a clear message to those who wish us ill, that the State of Israel and the Jewish people have a firm defensive shield, and that anyone who rises against us will feel the full weight of our fist."
We apologize for technical difficulties that made it impossible to view the live video from the Kotel.