“No one will use force against bereaved families,” Bennett said.
By Aaron Sull, World Israel News
Realizing the bad optics of bereaved families wrestling with police at cemeteries on Memorial Day, Israel’s Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said there would be no arrests at gravesites if families are found visiting their loved ones.
“A bereaved father is not going to be physically stopped from visiting a cemetery on Memorial Day,” Bennett said on Wednesday.
“If hundreds come, it’s still different from millions coming,” he said. “No one will use force against bereaved families.”
In an effort to prevent the further spread of coronavirus, the cabinet approved on Wednesday a nationwide lockdown for next week coinciding with Memorial Day and Independence Day. On Memorial Day, military cemeteries will be closed and police officers will be stationed outside to prevent violations.
The government will ban intercity travel as it did on Passover. It hopes this measure will be enough to reduce the number that do make it to the cemeteries to a more manageable size.
“This was a very, very difficult decision, but it was necessary as every year some 1.5 million people visit cemeteries, many of them elderly,” Bennett said.
“This would have been a coronavirus bomb,” he added.
Many bereaved families are upset by the decision. Eli Ben Shem, chairman of the Yad Labanim organization, which supports families of fallen soldiers and terror victims, sent a letter to the prime minister and IDF chief of staff warning that “we are receiving hundreds of messages from families who are not accepting it and are threatening to force their way in.”
In an effort to help families swallow the difficult pill, Bennett encouraged visitation before the cemeteries close next week.
“The nuclear families alone can visit the cemetery starting this Wednesday morning and until Sunday night, whenever they wish, while observing the accepted social distancing rules,” Bennett said
Memorial Day is traditionally a time when Israelis visit the resting places of fallen soldiers en masse to honor the memories of those who perished defending the nation.
The annual day of mourning is observed each year on the fourth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, one day before Independence Day, to link the ultimate sacrifice made by fallen soldiers with Israel’s establishment and continued existence.