Israel remembers its fallen as Memorial Day begins

The curfew imposed during this year’s Memorial Day will perhaps inadvertently add more gravitas to a day already observed with great solemnity.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel’s Memorial Day will officially begin on Monday night at 8:00 p.m. as air raid sirens sound for one minute throughout the country. Unlike remembrance days past, it will take place under a strict curfew which has been temporarily reimposed on the population.

The curfew will perhaps inadvertently add more gravitas to a day already observed with great solemnity by Israeli society.

The day’s official full name is Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism. The day marks a chance for friends and families to remember the 23,816 Israelis who gave their lives in Israel’s wars and operations, as well as the 4,166 citizens who were murdered in terror attacks.

The official ceremony which takes place at the Western Wall will occur on Monday evening immediately following the siren. Only this year  it will be without an audience. Following the ceremony, which will be watched by large numbers on TV, Israelis will be asked to go their patios and sing together Hatikvah, the national anthem.

A musical memorial will be broadcast later that evening at 9:00 p.m. That event was pre-recorded.

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Typically, the day is marked by visits to military cemeteries. But due to the coronavirus, those cemeteries were closed at 4:00 p.m. on Monday.

The issue of closing cemeteries created a stir among bereaved families, who were angry that they wouldn’t be able to visit the graves of their loved ones. Some threatened to go anyway. Families were partly assuaged when Israel’s defense minister suggested they visit on the days leading up to Memorial Day.

At 11:00 on Monday another air raid siren will sound for two minutes. The air raid sirens bring the country to a halt as people stop what they’re doing and stand in respectful silence. This year, however, few will be on the streets.

Among those remembered are the 1,510 Israeli policeman and women who fell during their service. Since the last Memorial Day ceremony, 12 policeman have died in the line of duty.