On Sunday afternoon, Israel began to mark Yom Hazikaron, also known as Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror. As of this year, Israel commemorates the lives of 23,169 soldiers and 2,495 terror victims.
All throughout Israel, commemoration ceremonies began with a minute long national siren that rang sharply at precisely 8 pm. The day of remembrance continues until Monday night, followed immediately by the start of Independence Day celebrations the same evening.
The first official event of Yom Hazikaron began at 4 pm Sunday at Yad La’Banim, “Memorial for the Sons,” in Jerusalem. Attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top political and religious officials, the ceremony marked a poignant time in the history of the Jewish people and of the Jewish state of Israel.
“On this day, the nation adopts us and unites with us, and with the heroes of the nation,” Netanyahu told families of the fallen. “They came from all parts of the country, from all segments of Israeli society, and the most simple and concise truth is this: We would not be here if not for their sacrifice.”
“We would not be here without their readiness to give their lives so we could be here,” the prime minister continued. “This right, this sacrifice, the ability to risk their lives in the face of the horrors of war – all this was not available to us before the founding of Israel.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein explained that while the nation gathers to mourn for one day, the bereaved families mourn each day of their lives. “No one has to remind you how to remember. You never forget,” he said. “Memorial day is the commandment of the entire nation, a nation that stands and bows its head respectfully and with humility at the [soldiers’] dedication and contribution.”
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz solemnly memorialized those whose lives were vanquished defending the nation.
“As we gather together in the cemeteries, at the memorials, and at the IDF ceremonies, we remember those who gave this country all they could give,” he said. “The fallen soldiers and terror victims accompany us in their absence at every step of the way, at every crossroads that life throws at us.”
MK Issac Herzog, Israel’s opposition leader, stated that without the sacrifice of the fallen, Israel as we know it today would not exist.
“It’s important that tonight and tomorrow, as we gather to remember the IDF fallen, that we remember those heroes who paid with their lives so that Jerusalem will return to be the beating heart of the Jewish nation and the capital of the state.”
In a separate ceremony at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel’s President Shimon Peres explained that it was the “blood of its sons and daughters” that founded and continue to uphold the nation.
“It wasn’t a declaration that founded this wonderful country. It was founded upon the blood of its sons and daughters, upon the sweat of the pioneers and the vision of its prophets,” said the president.
“Israel today is a strong country, a miracle in the eyes of the Jews, a wonder in the eyes of the world. We, the Israelis, are not like any other people. For a generation already the sadness does not release us, even for joy. Our joy is always incomplete. A cloud of sadness envelops us. It is hidden deeply but stares out of our eyes.”
Peres offered a voice of optimism on what is a national day of mourning. “We will live by the sword but seek peace with all our hearts. The battle is not over, we have not reached our goals…To our neighbors we offer a true partnership and a new life, where trees bearing fruit will replace arrows inflicting agony. I am sure that we will all live to see those days.”