The IDF has approved a small but meaningful change in the text recited by military rabbis at remembrance ceremonies for the fallen soldiers of the IDF (“Yizkor”).
From now on, the Yizkor memorial text will begin with the words “May G-d remember His sons and daughters,” instead of the words “The Nation of Israel will remember its sons and daughters.”
The left-wing Ha’aretz newspaper credits television journalist Menashe Raz with noticing the change several years ago in ceremonies he attended. He wrote a letter to the Chief of Staff imploring him to bring back the secular formulation.
Raz explained that both religious and secular Israelis are unified in the obligation to remember the fallen. However, he said, “For me personally, and for many like me, the Creator is not the address for remembering.”
Raz received a letter of response from theoffice of the new Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, which said that “in accordance with General Staff Order 33.0901, the formulation for the preamble to the Yizkor that the IDF is committed to reads ‘May G-d remember,’ and therefore that is the formulation read at ceremonies.”
The disagreement over the formulation reflects a sometimes positive tension between secular and religious Zionism that is as old as the state of Israel. In formulating the Declaration of Independence, religious officials wanted the founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, to reference G-d, while secular and socialist officials opposed this. The compromise formula was “Tzur Yisrael” – which means literally “the Rock of Israel” and refers to G-d in Jewish prayers, but referred to the IDF in the secular interpretation.