Israeli families threaten to force their way into closed cemeteries on Memorial Day

“If I’m forced to be cuffed and sit in prison because I wanted to go, then that’s the price I will pay,” said one father.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

Eliphaz Baeloha, father of the late Master Sergeant Nadav Baeloha, told Israel’s 103FM on Monday that he would risk arrest and prison in order to visit his son’s grave this Memorial Day.

The Ministry of Defense announced over a month ago that there would be no audiences at Memorial Day events this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials are considering a complete lockdown similar to the one implemented on Passover to prevent gatherings, which they fear could lead to a resurgence of the disease.

However, it had not counted on the strong reaction from families prevented from paying their respects to loved ones.

Baeloha said other families felt as he did, an assertion backed up by a letter sent on Sunday to senior Israeli officials by Yad LaBanim, the organization that represents the families of fallen soldiers and terror victims.

It warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and others that families wouldn’t stand for the closing of military cemeteries on Israel’s Memorial Day.

“We are receiving hundreds of messages from families who don’t accept it and are threatening to force their way in,” wrote the group’s chairman, Eli Ben Shem.

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Baeloha said, “For me, Memorial Day is far more important than going to the supermarket to take care of my food, because for me it’s something exceptional, as someone who does not visit the cemetery during the year other than on Memorial Day and the death anniversary, for me, this is the most important day,”

Baeloha said that no one can tell families what they can do on Memorial Day, declaring, “I’ll get up and go [visit my son’s grave] and I expect my son and daughter and wife to come with me, as well.”

When asked about the police, he said, “I will go through them, and if I’m forced to be cuffed and sit in prison because I wanted to go, then that’s the price I will pay.”

Baeloha offered possible solutions, like taking shifts to allow bereaved families to visit the graves. “So there are solutions, but the easiest solution they all go to is to cancel,” he said.

“We see a complete imperviousness [among political leadership] to what is happening to the people. Absolute imperviousness, and it is in all areas,” he said.

Baeloha’s oldest son Nadav was killed in battle in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. He was 21 years old.

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Memorial Day, which begins this year on the evening of April 27 and ends on the evening of April 28, is normally marked by widely attended public memorials as Israel remembers its fallen soldiers.