Israel froze Tuesday night to mark the start of the annual memorial service for its fallen soldiers and victims of attacks.
At around 8 pm, Israelis gathered and traffic stopped in the streets, while sirens rang for a minute in a country with flags at half-staff.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Defense, published annually on the occasion of this day, 24,068 soldiers and members of the security forces have died in active service since 1860, the year that the Jewish state considers the first in the conflict with the Palestinians, the one where Jews founded their first quarter outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.
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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has registered 4,216 civilian victims of attacks.
33 names have been added to the list of victims of terrorism who died in attacks last year. Four victims who became disabled also died from serious injuries caused by attacks – bringing the total number to 3,199 people since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.
This list does not yet include Vyacheslav Golev, the security guard who was shot and killed Friday night at the entrance to Ariel by two Palestinians. The National Insurance Institute said a discussion with the Department of Defense is currently underway to determine whether he will be considered a soldier killed in action or a victim of terrorism in light of a 2016 law that allows security guards to be categorized as military.
On Wednesday, the sirens should sound again for two minutes at. 11:00 (0800 GMT) and will kick off a series of ceremonies at Israeli military cemeteries. A tribute to the victims of the terror is planned for at.
On Tuesday afternoon, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with the families of soldiers killed.
National ceremonies for Yom HaZikaron, which begins at dusk, began in the afternoon with a memorial event held at the Yad Lebanim Memorial honoring fallen soldiers in Jerusalem.
Bennett and Knesset President Mickey Levy attended the ceremony along with military officials and families of soldiers killed in action.
In his speech, Bennett reflected on his own journey as a commando soldier in southern Lebanon in the 1990s, mentioning several comrades who never returned from the front lines.
“We were there, in Lebanon – kibbutzniks, city children, secular and religious, from Beersheba and Haifa, Israelis on the right and left, Jews and non-Jews,” he said in a call for unity as his diverse coalition struggles to keep in power after losing its parliamentary majority last month.
“It was there, in the bases of southern Lebanon, that I fell in love with our wonderful nation,” the Prime Minister continued. “A lot of friends stayed there … They were 19 or 20 years old and they never came back.”
“I can not speak on their behalf, but I think if they could say no, they would ask us, ‘Keep living together. Do not allow disagreements to tear you apart from within.’
He warned of internal divisions that threaten Israel’s security, saying, “If we allow anger and hatred to overtake us, our enemies will take advantage of this to harm us.”
Levy, for his part, spoke of his brother, Pinchas, who died in a shooting in 1990 while serving as a reservist in the Jordan Valley, and he greeted the soldiers and victims of terrorism killed there, last year. “Those we loved gave their lives so that the people of Israel could continue to live in their land,” he said. “Let us show that we are worthy of them.”
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, whose brother Yoni was killed during Operation Entebbe, who intervened in Uganda’s famous hostage-taking, sent a press release to grieving families.
“For us, every day that passes is a Yom HaZikaron,” he said. “We get up in the morning strong in this memory, and we live our lives in the shadow of this memory.”
“On the eve of Yom HaZikaron, we interrupt our lives and we pay tribute to our heroes, to those who have paid with their lives, so that our people have independence, a strong country, a protective force,” the former prime minister said.
In a message to soldiers, Army Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said that “IDF soldiers and commanders operate in all sectors, they develop means and methods of warfare, and they will participate in operations to defend the country. But the very first weapon will always remain the fighting spirit, the will to fight and individual qualities. “
“By your side, I want the families of the fallen soldiers to be strong, and I embrace them,” Kohavi added.
The main national ceremony began at 8 pm on Tuesday evening at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
At 19:45 on Wednesday, Yom HaZikaron ends with the torch lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl. It starts on the 74th Independence Day.
At the end of this day, therefore, the Israelites will, from Wednesday evening, celebrate the creation of the State of Israel, proclaimed on May 14, 1948, corresponding this year according to the Hebrew calendar to May 5. Yom HaZikaron, established in 1951 by the then Prime Minister and Minister of Defense David Ben-Gurion, was put on Iyar 4 in the Jewish calendar, the evening of Yom HaAtzmaut.
It will also be the first time in two years that Israel marks Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut, largely without COVID-19 restrictions. Israel has seen the number of daily coronavirus cases fall steadily since reaching a record high in January. The country has recorded 10,699 deaths due to coronavirus since the start of the 2020 pandemic.