In the year since last Memorial Day, 60 soldiers and officers have joined the ranks of those who fell while serving in Israel's security forces. The numbers were released by the Defense Ministry ahead of Memorial Day, which begins Sunday evening.
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In addition to the 60, another 37 wounded veterans died as a result their injuries over the past year, and another 11 civilians were killed in terrorist attacks.
From 1860 to date, 23,544 men and women have died defending Israel and the pre-state Jewish community.
The count begins in 1860 because that is when the first Jewish neighborhood was established outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City. Today it is considered the beginning of the rebirth of modern Jewish presence on the land of Israel.
The numbers include soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, officers of the police, the Shin Bet security service, the Mossad and the Israel Prison Service, as well as those killed fighting in the pre-state defense forces and units such as the Jewish Brigade of the British Army during World War II.
According to the National Insurance Institute, 3,117 civilians died due to hostile acts since Israel's founding in 1948. This number includes 122 foreign citizens killed in terror attacks in Israel, as well as about 100 Israelis killed in terror attacks abroad.
Many of the tens of thousands of people commemorated on this day didn't die in combat, though the official name of the day is "Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism." The count includes soldiers and officers – including in any security service, the Knesset guard, the Mossad or the Prison Service - who died in traffic accidents, for example, or from cancer or any other condition.
The Israeli security forces do not distinguish the cause of death among people who die in service: all are recognized for the purposes of Memorial Day. "Bereavement is bereavement," explain the forces. There is distinction when compensation is involved, for instance misbehavior by the soldier, such as drinking alcohol, as a contributing factor.
In the Israel Defense Forces alone, a third of the deaths from the years 2006 to 2016 were from combat injuries or terrorism: 251 of the 775 soldiers who died in those years. A second leading cause was suicide, which was responsible for 205 soldier deaths in that time, or 26 percent. Traffic accidents were responsible for 135 deaths, or almost 18 percent.
Most of the rest of the soldiers who died in that time were casualties of disease or training accidents.
Israel is busy preparing for the large number of ceremonies and other events that mark Memorial Day. Over 1.5 million people are expected to attend them and visit military cemeteries on the day itself. At 10 A.M. on Sunday, President Reuven Rivlin officially opened the new memorial hall for fallen soldiers on Mount Herzl. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other senior defense officials were also present.
At 4 P.M., the official opening ceremony for Memorial Day will be held at the Yad Lebanim memorial in Jerusalem, with Netanyahu in attendance. At 8 P.M. a one-minute-long siren will sound to mark the beginning of the holiday. After the siren, the lighting of the memorial flame will take place at the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem's Old City. Rivlin and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot will attend.
On Monday at 11 A.M., a two-minute-long siren will sound at the start of the official memorial ceremonies. These will be held around the country, including at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem with Rivlin and Netanyahu and at the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery in Tel Aviv with Liberman. The official ceremony honoring those who died from hostile acts will begin at 1 P.M.
On Monday evening at 8 P.M., the torch lighting ceremony that marks the beginning of Israel's 69th Independence Day celebration will take place on Mount Herzl.