Israel’s 19, 312 fallen soldiers were remembered today – both collectively and as individuals. All the names of the soldiers and policemen who fell in the line of duty are being screened continuously on Israel Television’s Channel 33; name, rank, and Hebrew and Gregorian date of death are shown, in chronological order, for five seconds. The screening began yesterday at 5 PM and will conclude this evening at 7:50. Details of the fallen can be seen at “www.izkor.gov.il” (a very heavily-visited site today).
Memorial ceremonies were held in 42 military cemeteries around the country, with the participation of government and political leaders. Deputy Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein, for instance, represented the government in Ofakim, while Infrastructures Minister Avigdor Lieberman took part in Ashdod, and opposition Leader MK Yossi Sarid was in Kibbutz Deganiah. The central Memorial Day ceremony was held at Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem, with the participation of President Katzav, Prime Minister Sharon, Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Mofaz, and families of fallen soldiers.
Prime Minister Sharon took the opportunity to make special mention of one unsung group of fallen soldiers: those from abroad without families. Sharon said,
“I mourn for all the soldiers – but I feel a special pain for one group about which I would like to speak: Those who came here from the death camps in Europe, through sealed borders, on ramshackle ‘illegal’ immigrant ships, and from the detention camps in Cyprus, straight to the front. These were the Gachal groups – the ‘Diaspora Enlistment’ groups. No one sang songs for them, and no one talked about them around a campfire, or tried to emulate them. No one waited for them at home to share their experiences – for they had no home. They were people from a different world, with experiences that we did not experience. Some of them were young like us, and some were older than us by 1,000 years. They came anonymously, fell anonymously, and many of them remain anonymous up until this very day… Many of them are buried here [in Mt. Herzl]. Some of the graves here contain the bodies of those who were the last remnants of families that were destroyed in the Holocaust. No one has ever visited their graves. The lesson for us: Israel is the only place in the world where its [Jewish] citizens have the right and the power to protect themselves, and for this we must thank He Who dwells in the heavens every single day.”
A second memorial ceremony was held afterwards at Mt. Herzl for Israel’s victims of terrorism. President Moshe Katzav said,
“No country in the world is protected from terrorism. All of the terrorism organizations throughout the world are connected, physically, spiritually, and otherwise. Therefore, leaders of all Arab nations should know that their encouragement of terrorism anywhere, their silence in the face of any terrorist attack, is a ‘double-edged sword,’ one that can turn around and terrorize them as well.”