As it always does this time of year, Israel passed through its days of national schizophrenia.
From the sorrow of the country’s Memorial Day (full name: Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism) to the joy of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, or Independence Day, Israelis, and the people from abroad who travel to the Jewish State to mourn and celebrate together, the Jewish people took pride in their land and the collective price it cost.
Young Israeli scouts stand at attention – in front of a fire inscription in the shape of a Magen David – at a Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) ceremony in Jerusalem.
According to Defense Ministry statistics, 23,085 members of Israel’s security forces have died in active service since the country’s 1947-48 War of Independence, along with those who fought in pre-state militias since 1860.
“Their stories of dedication and courage remind us to whom we owe the fact that we can walk these paths,” Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Glantz said in a memorial ceremony at the Western Wall. “Between the eyes of the sons that are lit through the stones of hope and dreams of the Jewish people, I find my peers, my soldiers and commanders.”
Yom HaZikaron, when cafes and places of entertainment are closed, begins with a minute-long siren throughout Israel at sundown on the eve of the day of mourning; a two-minute siren sounds at 11 a.m. the next day; sundown that night brings Independence Day, marked with concerts and dances and public celebrations.
On Yom HaZikaron, some 1.5 million Israelis visit cemeteries – more than 100,000 at the Mount Herzl military cemetery – and various memorial sites.
“We are here thanks to those who fell on behalf of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting on Sunday, the day before Yom HaZikaron. “Today threats against the country are greater than in the past, but the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and security forces are also stronger.”