Clashes, cursing, and expelled lawmakers: Memorial Day tensions boil over

Unprecedented disruptions on somber day as lawmakers are heckled and bereaved families physically clash at military graveyards.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Groups of bereaved families clashed in Beersheba’s military cemetery on Memorial Day, a normally solemn occasion that sees relatives visit the graves of their loved ones who fell during their IDF service or were victims of terror.

But this year’s Memorial Day has been marked by stark politicization, with some demanding that politicians who support the judicial reform refrain from speaking at or attending ceremonies commemorating soldiers.

While numerous ministers and MKs have agreed to the request and dropped out of their previously scheduled appearances, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir delivered a speech in Beersheba despite the backlash.

Tensions were clearly running high on Tuesday morning as families gathered in the southern Negev city’s military cemetery, with a clip on social media depicting physical clashes between two men at the site.

The video begins after one man presumably finishes making anti-government remarks. Another visitor tells him that the cemetery “is not the place” for that rhetoric, and urges him to “respect” the site.

The first man responds by screaming at him to “shut up,” and the two begin a heated verbal exchange, which culminates in water being thrown, a string of obscenities being shouted, and a shoving match.

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In another video of a separate incident at the same cemetery in Beersheba, a bereaved father is seen fighting soldiers who blocked off access to his son’s grave ahead of Ben Gvir’s appearance.

The soldiers offer to escort the man to the grave, explaining that movement in the area has been restricted due to security concerns, but the man angrily responds by pushing them.

For unclear reasons, other visitors to the graveyard choose to get involved in the fray, accusing the man of being a “leftist” and scuffling with him. Soldiers were eventually able to calm down everyone involved in the incident.

During Ben-Gvir’s speech, he was interrupted by shouting and heckling from the audience.

Some called him “garbage” and demanded that he “go home.” Ben-Gvir continued with his speech, which ended with a mix of boos and applause.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev’s speech in a military cemetery in Holon was punctuated by cries of “Shame!” from the audience. One bereaved father then shouted at the hecklers, saying, “Enough! Respect the dead,” according to a Ynet report.

Health and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel was met with shouting by some bereaved families in Rehovot who said, “You are not welcome here, we don’t want politicians.” Soldiers at the Rehovot cemetery were seen struggling to hold back two groups of clashing families who appeared to be split over Arbel’s presence.

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In northern Israel, Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel was prevented from entering a military cemetery in the Druze town of Isifiya. Anti-government protesters blocked Gamliel from reaching the site, and she was forced to leave without making her scheduled appearance and speech.

Notably, the majority of Druze citizens are Likud voters, so it’s unclear if the people preventing Gamliel from making her appearance were actually locals or left-wing activists who traveled to the site.