Israel began marking the Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism on Tuesday evening when, at 8 p.m., a one-minute siren rang out throughout the country, causing all to stop in silence.
The central ceremony was held at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem in the presence of Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
In his speech, Herzog stated: “Our sons and daughters, who fell in defense of our state, fought together and fell together. They did not ask—nor did anyone ask them—who was right-wing and who was left-wing. Who was religious. Who was secular. Who was Jewish and who was not Jewish. Nor did grief pose these questions to them or to you. They fell as Israelis, defending Israel. In cemeteries, arguments fall silent. Between the headstones, not a sound. A silence that demands that we fulfill, together, their single dying wish: the resurrection of Israel. The building of Israel. United, consolidated, responsible for each other. For we are all sisters and brothers.”
He added that “over the past year, past weeks, and indeed, past few days, grief and pain have struck us time and again. Even today, our enemies rise up against us to destroy us with hateful terror, and as always, they find us ready and determined—with one hand holding a weapon and the other extended in dialogue and peace. It is precisely in these heart-breaking moments, escorting our heroes and heroines on their final journeys, together with their beloved families, whose pain instantly becomes our own—precisely in these moments, we discover time and again the sheer power of our wonderful and marvelous nation, a nation that knows how to overcome any obstacle.”
Earlier in his speech, he said: “Here, at the Wailing Wall, in silence and sacred trepidation, we bow our heads in memory of the sons and daughters, the fallen soldiers of Israel’s wars and victims of terror attacks. From south to north, east to west, members of all communities and sections of society, members of all waves of aliyah, of all religions and faiths. Partners in pride and in pain.”
According to figures released this month by Israel’s Ministry of Defense, 24,068 soldiers have fallen from 1860 to the present. An additional 56 soldiers have fallen this past year, according to the ministry, and 84 disabled veterans passed away due to their disabilities.
All were officially recognized by the Defense Ministry.