Defense Minister Bennett: No audiences at Memorial Day events

Graveyard ceremonies to be cancelled, replaced by candlelight vigil by IDF soldiers and reading of Kaddish (the mourner’s prayer).

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Memorial Day in Israel, a somber occasion marked by widely attended public memorials at military graveyards throughout the country, is set to look dramatically different this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced new policies for 2020’s Memorial Day ceremonies.

“In order to safeguard public health while still honoring our national traditions, the Defense Minister has instructed the Ministry of Defense and the IDF’s Manpower Directorate that the main ceremonies at the Western Wall plaza (on Memorial Day Eve) and Mount Herzl (Memorial Day) will be held without an audience and instead will be broadcast live,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“Additionally, local ceremonies in the 52 military cemeteries across the country will be cancelled and replaced by an IDF soldier candlelight vigil in which a large memorial candle will be lit, alongside a commemorative flame, a salute by commanders and a military cantor will recite the Kaddish prayer,” the statement continued.

Defense Minister Bennett made the decision based upon the recommendations of Director General of the Ministry of Defense, Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, Director of Manpower Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz, and vice-president and Head of the Families, Memorial and Legacy Department of the Defense Ministry, Aryeh Moalem.

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Moalem consulted with the Chairman of Yad Labanim organization and the Chairman of the IDF Widows and Orphans organization.

The restrictions mark a massive shift in the way Memorial Day is observed in Israel.

An average of 1.5 million Israelis attend Memorial Day Eve and Memorial Day ceremonies each year. While local graveyard ceremonies will not take place, the minute-long siren at 8:00 p.m. on Memorial Day Eve and minute-long siren at 11:00 a.m. on Memorial Day will occur as usual.