As Israel Marks Memorial Day, Netanyahu Warns Nation of 'Indifference to Threats of Annihilation'

This year, in contrast to last year's coronavirus restrictions, bereaved families are permitted to visit military cemeteries ■ Protesters call for better treatment of disabled army veterans

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People stand still in central Jerusalem as they observe a minute of silence on Memorial Day.
People stand still in central Jerusalem as they observe a minute of silence on Memorial Day.Credit: Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism is being commemorated on Wednesday around the country with official ceremonies.

Speaking at the main ceremony in the National Hall for Israel’s Fallen on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the 1973 Yom Kippur War “and the tremendous sacrifice made by our fighters paved the way for peace with Egypt, but also taught us an invaluable lesson: We must never remain indifferent to threats of annihilation and destruction by those who hate us.”

As official ceremonies started across the country, several dozen protesters gathered in front of the Defense Ministry's Rehabilitation Department offices in Petah Tikva, where a disabled Israeli military veteran set himself on fire on Monday.

Israeli soldiers on Memorial Day, 2021.Credit: Hadas Parush

The crowd of mostly other disabled veterans called on the department's chief to step down over what they say is inadequate treatment by the authorities.

This year, in contrast to last year, when health restrictions due to the coronavirus barred families from gathering at military cemeteries, this year bereaved families are permitted to visit to cemeteries.

As every year, a centerpiece of the observance of Memorial Day is a two-minute siren at 11 A.M., when the country comes to a halt to honor the memory of the fallen and to mark the start of the official ceremonies at 52 military cemeteries and memorial sites around Israel.

Israeli families on Memorial Day, 2021.Credit: Hadas Parush

23,928 have fallen while fighting for Israel or pre-state Zionist groups from 1860 to April 9, 2021.

Since Memorial Day last year, 43 new names were added to the list of the fallen, along with another 69 disabled veterans who died for reasons connected to their injuries and were recognized this past year as having fallen in Israel’s wars.

At 1 P.M. a second official ceremony was held in memory of the victims of terrorism and hostile action on Mount Herzl.

The names of the fallen in all of Israel’s wars are also broadcast continuously through the entire day on channel 26 of Partner, Yes and Hot, as well as on the Izkor channel of Cellcom TV and Idan Plus.

The Defense Ministry’s Yizkor memorial website lets mourners light a memorial candle – either a general one for all the fallen or a personal one for a specific soldier.

On Tuesday evening, at the beginning of Memorial Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the ceremony held at the Yad Labanim memorial in Jerusalem, that at the same time Israel is making every effort to avoid more victims, it is preparing the IDF and the security forces for the day they are needed. “The two things exist at the same time: The desire to prevent unnecessary wars and soldiers falling, and at the same the eternal preparedness for when the day comes.”

President Reuven Rivlin called for unity in his speech at the Western Wall Plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem, saying that without unity, a shared mission and the purity of arms, a free people will not continue to exist in Israel.

At the same time, an online Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony was held by the Combatants for Peace movement and the Parents Circle – Family Forum for the 16th time. 

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