Remembering the 23,085 Fallen |

Israel Marks Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers, Victims of Terror Attacks

Two-minute siren marks start of ceremonies; state ceremonies for fallen troops, victims of terror attacks take at place Mt. Herzl, Jerusalem; Defense Minister Ya'alon: Iranian nuclear threat should not be swept under the rug.

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Events honoring Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks began on Monday with a siren that sounded across the country at 11 A.M, marking a two-minute silence in their memory.

A ceremony for the victims of terror attacks was held on Mount Herzl at 1 P.M., and was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.

Speaking at the event, Netanyahu mentioned Adelle Biton, an infant critically wounded in a stone-throwing incident near the settlement of Ariel last month, and equated such violence to rocket fire and suicide bombings.

"We received another reminder that a rock is a lethal weapon," the prime minister said, refering to the incident. "Stone terror from the west joins the Molotov cocktails, the gunfire, the rocket fire and car bombs. All these have killed 2,500 victims."

Netanyahu said that these attacks are meant to compromise Israel's security, and vowed to retaliate. He fired back against critics of Israel, who he said often fail to condemn acts of terror.

"We will not give up and will not give in," he said. "We will hunt the terrorists until they are destroyed. We will hit them anywhere [they are]."

"... These murderers don’t hesitate to massacre infants and the elderly, Jewish and non-Jewish passersby," he added. "We will never be like them. We won't teach our kids to hate, we won't send so-called martyrs to drag innocent souls with them into the netherworld."

According to the National Insurance Institute, 2,493 civilians have been killed in terror attacks since the end of the War of Independence, including 120 foreigners. Since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000, 974 civilians have been killed in terror attacks, 10 of whom were killed over the past year.

Tzvika Shahak, whose daughter Bat Chen was killed in a terrorist attack on Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Street in 1996 at the age of 15, gave a speech at the event in which he harshly criticized the government's commemoration of the victims.

Shahak, who chairs Israel's Terror Victims Association, addressed his words directly to the prime minister, asking him to allocated resources to the organization for the "holy work" of helping and supporting the victims' families.

Noting that the government plans to invest millions of shekels to build a national remembrance hall at Mount Herzl, which would not include the names of victims of terrorist attacks, he said, "Why isn't my daughter, who was killed by enemy hands, not worthy of being memorialized at the national remembrance hall, while the soldier who was murdered with her in the same terrorist attack, while on furlough and not in uniform, will be memorialized?"

According to Defense Ministry figures, more than 100,000 people attended ceremonies at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, while more than 70,000 attended the ceremony at the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery. Hundreds of thousands more took part in 52 state ceremonies in military cemeteries, and hundreds of other Memorial Day military events across Israel.

Ceremony for fallen troops

Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu addressed the Memorial Day ceremony for fallen troops at Mount Herzl. "We know there is no solace, relief or consolation" for the loss of a loved one, he said. "And maybe the response to death is life itself. The life of each and every one of us and the life of the state and the people. The life of our state is a wonder unlike any other."

In his that speech, Netanyahu said he had met with a group of young people whose fathers were killed in the line of duty and in terror attacks. "These wonderful youngsters represented to me the family of bereavement - a tribe that spans the spectrum of Israeli society. Jews and non-Jews who were scorched by bereavement." He said that he couldn't advise them on how to deal with the sense of loss, remembering the grief his family experienced over the death of his brother, Yonatan Netanyahu, who was killed in action during Operation Entebbe in 1976.

Netanyahu stressed that Israel will continue standing strong in the face of threats against it. "Since the birth of the State of Israel, many have tried to destroy it," he said. "They will never succeed... The IDF is stronger than ever," he continued. "We can stand any test. We will continue to strengthen our forces and act toward achieving peace with our neighbors and to protect our state. We always remember that we wouldn't be here without our soldiers' willingness to fight for our existence.

"Independence day was achieved by our troops," he said. "… We salute the fallen, our loved ones, the heroes of the state of Israel. May they rest in peace."

President Peres, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein were among those present at the ceremony.

Iranian threat

At the same time, another ceremony was held under tight security at Kiryat Shaul military cemetery in Tel Aviv. It was attended by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Deputy Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Gadi EIsenkott , Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau, former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. Thousands were in attendance.

Israel is a "peace-seeking nation, our hand will be held out (in peace) forever, and we will always strive for peace with our neighbors," Ya'alon told those present. "Unfortunately however, there are still some who refuse to recognize our right to a national Jewish home in the Land of Israel in any border, and force us to fight back."

Ya'alon addressed the current security climate. "Terror attacks, rocket fire on civilian populations and a delegitimization campaign are challenges that have been put in front of us in recent years, they will also accompany us in the near future and will force us to respond with a firm hand."

He "Iran's nuclear program which justifies the hatred of Jews and the destruction of Israel is currently taking shape, and if it is not dealt with appropriately, it will threaten us, the Middle East, and the whole world: The problem of Iran's nuclear should never be swept under the rug," he said.

According to Defense Ministry figures, the total number of Israel’s fallen is 23,085. Since the previous Memorial Day 92 names have been added to the list: 37 soldiers, 12 police personnel and 43 disabled veterans who died over the past year. The relatives of the fallen - parents, spouses and children up to age 30 - number 17,533.

The Defense Ministry’s commemoration department says it expects more than 1.5 million people to visit military cemeteries throughout the country. Its representatives will be on hand at the cemeteries to distribute flowers and bottled water. A flag, memorial candle and flowers will be placed on each grave.

The traditional torch lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl on Monday night will conclude Memorial Day and kick off Independence Day. The theme of the torch lighting ceremony is the protection of national heritage for coming generations, spotlighting state spending of approximately NIS 400 million on restoring and upgrading heritage sites.

On Sunday night, Peres, Netanyahu and Gantz spoke at ceremonies on Memorial Day eve.

Two-minute silence in Tel Aviv. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, right, at Memorial Day ceremony in Jerusalem.
Ceremony for fallen troops.
Memorial Day ceremony.
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Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, right, at Memorial Day ceremony in Jerusalem. Credit: Michal Fattal
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Ceremony for fallen troops. Credit: Tali Mayer
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Memorial Day ceremony. Credit: Tali Mayer
Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers

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