Rivlin to Bereaved Families: 'Isolation Brings Forth What Is Not There, We Embrace You From Afar'

Annual Western Wall ceremony held without an audience, as bereaved families kept at home over coronavirus restrictions

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Rivlin and Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi at the Memorial Eve ceremony at the Western Wall, Jerusalem, April 27, 2020
Rivlin and Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi at the Memorial Eve ceremony at the Western Wall, Jerusalem, April 27, 2020Credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

Memorial Day was ushered in on Monday evening with a one-minute siren around the country, followed by a ceremony broadcast live from the Western Wall in Jerusalem – held this year without members of the general public.

The ceremony began with the one-minute siren heard around the country that ushers in Memorial Day.

Memorial Day observances on Tuesday will include another siren at 11 A.M., when the country again comes to a halt as Israelis stand for a minute of silence.

In his speech at Monday's ceremony, President Reuven Rivlin directed his remarks to the bereaved families who, due to the current coronavirus restrictions, not being allowed to visit cemeteries on Tuesday.

“This year, you are alone in [your] rooms. We cannot come to your homes. We cannot stand at your side in the military sections,” the president said, referring to military cemeteries. “We can’t embrace you, [and] take you into our hearts, but we are embracing you from afar. Such isolation brings forth, all the more so, what is not there – the void, the longing, the pain. This year we can’t cry together, but we will remember the two promises that are the foundation of the Israeli covenant: building a proper, calm and secure life for our children, and bringing them back home at any price – even if they have not returned from battle.”

Military Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi also gave a speech, saying: “A time of crisis, like wartime, pushes aside what is marginal and insignificant and highlights what is important, what reflects values and the sanctity of life.

“The Israeli army is devoted with all of its strength in the war against the spread of the pandemic and is doing everything possible to help the State of Israel,” he said.

Then, in reference to two cities that have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, he added: “Combat soldiers in the alleyways of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak are distributing food. Commanders are assisting the local authorities and the health care system. Personnel from the Home Front Command are on the frontlines of the battle, and intelligence and weapons development units are developing technologies and medical means. Every army unit is pressing ahead and taking the initiative, adopting the elderly and nursing homes, and when the door is opened and an 80-year-old woman meets a 20-year-old soldier with a food parcel, the people’s army takes on additional meaning.”

Despite the lack of public gatherings this year, immediately following the two-minute siren at 11 A.M. on Tuesday, fighter planes will conduct a flyover above the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem, to be followed by the main Memorial Day ceremony, with a limited number of participants, which will also be broadcast on television.

At 1 P.M. there will be a ceremony in memory of those killed in terrorist attacks and other hostilities in Israel and abroad. The torch-lighting ceremony will begin at 7:45 P.M. ushering in Independence Day, which is marked according to the Hebrew calendar. The holiday continues on Wednesday.

The Defense Ministry’s list of the country’s fallen includes the names of 23,816 individuals, beginning in 1860. Over the past year, 42 new names have been added, as have 33 wounded veterans who have been passed away. In addition, there was one victim of terrorism, Rina Shnerb, who was killed near the West Bank settlement of Dolev in August.

Terrorism and other hostile incidents in the course of the country’s history have left 3,241 children without a parent, of whom 120 had two parents die. They have also left 817 spouses widowed and 897 parents whose children have been killed.

The Defense Ministry has called on the public to mark Memorial Day at home and online in keeping with restrictions imposed due the coronavirus pandemic.

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