Commemoration of Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day for its fallen soldiers and terrorism victims, began Tuesday evening at 8 PM with a country-wide siren and minute of silence. Memorial ceremonies took place in towns and cities around the country.
The major ceremony took place at the Western Wall, with the participation of Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, as well as President Peres and IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazi.
With flags at half-mast, a second siren is to be sounded Wednesday morning, at 11 AM, once again bringing all public activity to a standstill. The siren will mark the beginning of memorial ceremonies at the 43 military cemeteries around the country. A Knesset Member or government official will speak at each ceremony.
The Defense Ministry reports the number of fallen in the Jews' war for the Land of Israel since 1860 as 22,437. This number includes soldiers - not civilians - who fell since 1948, as well as all Jews killed between 1860 and 1948 in the struggle for the Land. The total number is 132 higher than last year, including 31 who were murdered or fell in battle since last year's Memorial Day, as well as others who died of their wounds or were recognized as IDF war casualties this year.
The year 1860 was chosen because it was then that Jews began to move outside Jerusalem's Old City walls and build new neighborhoods there.
In the Binyamin region (southern Shomron), the central Memorial Day ceremony will take place in the old British police station on Patriarchs Way, otherwise known as Wadi Haramiyeh. The 70-minute ceremony will be run by the girls of the Neriah Ulpanah high school, and will end at 11 AM with the nation-wide siren. Eighty Binyamin residents who have been killed in Israel's wars or murdered by Arab terrorists will be memorialized.
The names of all Israel's fallen soldiers and terrorist victims will be broadcast on Israel's public television channel Tuesday evening and Wednesday, one after the other, for 4-5 seconds each.
Special memorials will also be held at the Clandestine Immigration Museum in Haifa, the Acre Prison for Underground Prisoners, and at the Police Section of Mt. Herzl. A special ceremony will also be held in memory of Jews murdered by terrorists and anti-Semites around the world. Some 200 such Jews will be remembered at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, in an event organized by the Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish National Fund, and the UJC of North America. A new monument with the victims' names was dedicated on the same occasion last year.
Both Memorial Day and Independence Day are commemorated two days earlier than usual this year, in accordance with a ruling by the Chief Rabbinate and Knesset to ensure that Independence Day not fall on the Sabbath.
History of Israel's Fallen
The 1948-49 War of Independence was Israel's costliest war, with more than 6,000 dead - one percent of the Jewish population at the time - and 15,000 wounded.
During the ensuing seven years of relative quiet, 101 Israelis were killed in "1,339 cases of armed clashes with Egyptian armed forces, 435 cases of incursion from Egyptian-controlled territory, and 172 cases of sabotage perpetrated by Egyptian military units and fedayeen [terrorists] in Israel. So said Israel's Ambassador to the UN Abba Eban to the UN Security Council on October 30, 1956 - the day after Israel began the Sinai Campaign in response to Egypt's violation of international agreements by blockading the Israeli port of Eilat. A total of 231 Israeli soldiers died in the eight days of fighting.
The Six-Day War broke out on June 5, 1967. Along with the stunning victories, over 770 Israelis were killed.
Then began the period of the War of Attrition, which claimed 424 soldiers and more than 100 civilians. A ceasefire was declared on August 8, 1970.
Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur of 1973. The IDF ultimately emerged victorious, but a total of 2,688 soldiers were killed.
In June 1982, in response to continued terrorist attacks and Katyusha shellings from across the Lebanese border, as well as an assassination attempt upon Israel's late Ambassador to Great Britain Shlomo Argov, Israel attacked the terrorists in Lebanon in what was known as Operation Peace for Galilee. Close to 460 soldiers were killed between June and December 1982, and another 760 in daily ambushes against Israeli forces over the next two and a half years.
Between December 1987, when the first Arab "intifada" broke out, and the signing of the Oslo Accords in late 1993, 90 Israelis were murdered.
Between the Oslo signing and the beginning of what became known as the Oslo War in September, 2000, 251 Israelis were murdered by terrorists.
Another 1,320 have been felled by Palestinian Authority terrorists and gunmen since the Oslo War began in September 2000.