Israeli Government Panel Decides to Keep God Out of IDF Memorial Prayer

'May people of Israel remember' wording to be used on Mount Herzl.

IDF soldiers training for a ceremony on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Illustrative.
IDF soldiers training for a ceremony on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Illustrative. Tomer Appelbaum

The ministerial committee on ceremonies and symbols said this week the wording of the Yizkor memorial prayer for fallen soldiers should return to its original version at state ceremonies. The prayer recited at the official state ceremony on Mount Herzl that marks the end of Memorial Day and the start of the Independence Day will begin "Yizkor Am Yisrael" ("May the people of Israel remember" ), not "Yizkor Elohim" ("May God remember" ), committee head MK Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beiteinu ) said.

The Yizkor controversy has been raging for two months, ever since the secretariat of the Israel Defense Forces' high command sent a letter to journalist Menashe Raz saying that "Yizkor Elohim" was the mandatory wording at army ceremonies.

That sparked an outcry by many bereaved parents, prompting IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to appoint a special committee to look into the matter and decide on an official wording for IDF ceremonies.

The committee is due to submit its conclusions soon, and will apparently recommend a return to "Yizkor Am Yisrael."

This wording, written by Berl Katznelson following the battle of Tel Hai in 1920, was used throughout the state's early decades. In 1963, the IDF officially changed the wording to "Yizkor Elohim," which is the opening phrase of the traditional Jewish memorial prayer.

But it only began enforcing this rule recently, under pressure from military rabbis.

The ministerial committee's decision came in response to a query by MK Einat Wilf (Atzmaut ) to Misezhnikov, the tourism minister.

"As per the government's decision," Misezhnikov wrote back this week, "the original version of the prayer ('Yizkor Am Yisrael' ) ... has been read at this ceremony from 1955 until today. Therefore, for now, I have no intention of changing this custom, or of raising the matter for discussion in the ministerial committee."

In actual fact, the wording "Yizkor Elohim" has been used for the last two years.