Rav David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar group of religious Zionist rabbis, proposed a unified formula Wednesday that would bridge the gap between secular and religious versions of the military memorial prayer. The issue has become the subject of an emotional public debate.
The Tzohar version calls on both G-d and the Nation of Israel to remember the fallen soldiers.
The military Yizkor prayer, recited at memorial ceremonies, is the IDF’s version of the age-old traditional Jewish Yizkor prayer for the deceased. It is based on a creative adaptation of that prayer penned by secular socialist Zionist leader Berl Katznelson in 1920, following the battle of Tel Chai. The socialist Zionist version substituted “Yizkor Am Yisrael” (May the Nation of Israel remember…”) for “Yizkor El-him” (May G-d remember…) as the opening words.
However, Rav Shlomo Goren changed the official military version after the victory of 1967 and substituted “G-d” for “the Nation of Israel.” Rav Goren was Chief Military Rabbi at the time.
The Tzohar compromise version begins with the words: “Yizkor El-him veyizkor Am Yisrael…” (May G-d remember and may the Nation of Israel remember…).
Recently, a bereaved mother whose son was killed in 1948 and a secular journalist have spearheaded a campaign against the “Yizkor El-him” version, wrongly claiming that the version invoking G-d is a recent change. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz initially stood behind Rav Goren’s version, then took a step back and said individual units could decide the matter for themselves. He has also said that a committee would study the dilemma.