"This year, once again, on the eve of the Day of Remembrance, we stand around the candle of pain and longing, and unite with the memory of the best of our sons and daughters who are no longer [with us]," the Chief of Staff wrote in a special "Order of the Day" which was sent out in honor of Memorial Day.
"The sons and daughters, the sons of all the exiles,all the ethnicities and religions, who in their lives and in their deaths combined courage and boundless dedication, represent for us exemplars of giving and granting for the sake of the life and well-being of the people in Israel."
In the early 1950s, then Prime Minister and Defense Minister David Ben Gurion, z"l, founded a special public council, which was comprised primarily of bereaved parents, whose aim was to perpetuate the memory of fallen soldiers from Israel's wars. The council recommended that one day be observed especially to honor their memory, and that the day be linked to Independence Day. The date would fall one day prior to Independence Day, which is observed on the 5th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar.
This recommendation was approved by the government, and the 4th of Iyar was officially declared as Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers.
The motivation for marking the day side by side with Independence Day can be traced to the literary adage: "In their death they showed us how to live." This expression places an emphasis on the deep appreciation for all those who gave their lives for the defense of the homeland.
Israel's fallen soldiers are those who granted us life by their deaths, providing the opportunity to continue to exist in the state. Thus, each year we are called upon to stop and remember the pain of the dead, one day before we move to celebrate Independence Day.
As of the eve of Memorial Day, the toll of the number of Israel's war dead stands at 22,305. In the last year, Israel lost 233 soldiers, among them 119 who were felled in the Second Lebanon War.
Throughout the years, various methods of honoring the memory of fallen soldiers have been practiced to mark the day across the country. Memorial Day will begin tonight (Sunday), with the main remembrance ceremony to be held at the Western Wall plaza. The ceremony is to be attended by the president, the chief of staff, the chief rabbis and representatives of bereaved families.
At 11:00 A.M. on Monday, a two-minute siren will wail across the country. Following the siren, ceremonies honoring Israel's fallen soldiers will commence in 44 military cemeteries nationwide.
In the military cemetery on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl, the president, the prime minister, the chief of staff, the chief justices, chief rabbis, chief of police and other public figures preside over a remembrance ceremony.
Throughout the day, flags throughout the country and at Jewish and Israeli sites the world over are lowered to half-mast in honor of the fallen heroes. Commemorations are held at virtualy every public and educational institution, IDF camp and base, and adjacent to memorial sites and monuments.
May the memory of those fallen be blessed.
Source: Prime Minister's Office
22 April 2007
Prime Minister's Message to Bereaved Families
A moment before we mark 59 years of independence, we stand silent as we remember the precious, heavy and painful price which accompanies our struggle for existence as a Jewish, democratic, sovereign and independent country in the Land of Israel.
Over the past year, we were again reminded that this aspiration involves struggle and heartache, and that is because, even today, there are, among our enemies, those who cannot resign themselves to our existence, and seek to destroy the sovereignty of Israel by harming its citizens and soldiers. Again we had to stand up for and defend the lives of the citizens of Israel; we were forced to fight for and defend the State and the right of the residents of the North and South to live their lives in tranquility and security.
Since the last Remembrance Day, we have lost 233 regular and reserve soldiers and members of the security forces, largely during the Second Lebanon War, which was intended to ward off the threat on our northern border. Even today, we continue working toward and hoping for the return the three kidnapped soldiers. We also hope and pray for the full recovery of the wounded.
For the 59 years of our existence, during war after war and during routine days, we paid with the blood of the best of our children for all our futures, and for the hope to live in our country in peace. You, the bereaved families, have paid the terrible price of this hope. On this day, we stand beside you - who carry in your hearts the memory of the fallen every day - with the promise and vow that we will remember the fallen and that their memory will remain etched in the heart of the nation forever.
May the memory of the fallen be blessed and be forever bound to our lives.
PM's Speech at Memorial Service at Ammunition Hill
Free Translation Courtesy of IMRA - April 22, 2007
Dear Friends, Distinguished Guests,
Night is falling on the hills of Jerusalem, and the country is wrapped in silence. It is the silence of pain - and it is deep, hurting and torturous.
At this time on the eve of the Day of Remembrance, the State of Israel is gathering together in grief and joining in memory of its sons and daughters - Jews, Druze, Circassians, Bedouins and members of other sectors - who fell during Israel's campaigns.
Great sadness is descending on the country. And it has names, faces, and it had hope for life. Each and every one of the fallen is an entire world which has been lost forever - a void which we can never fill again.
I know, this pain is, first and foremost, private, intimate, between a person and himself and between a person and his family. Even when the entire nation shares in it - the pain always remains private.
I know there are no words of comfort. And there is no way to understand what you - parents, widows, orphans, siblings and friends - feel every day of the year. Only on rare occasions do the words succeed in describing the pain of separation. Perhaps the words of the poet Yehuda Amichai, written in memory of his commander and friend, Lieutenant Chaim Laksberg (Dicky), who fell in July 1948, are such.
"Rain falls on the faces of my comrades-in-arms:on the faces of my comrades-in-arms who live, whocover their heads with a blanket -and on the faces of my comrades-in-arms who are dead, whoare not covered anymore."
The paths of the fighting are carved along the length and breadth and around the borders of this country. We never wanted them. We are a people who sanctify life, who do not seek quarrels.
However, time after time, we have been forced to defend ourselves, to protect our sovereignty, to fight for our freedom. We are prepared to fight, but have no love for war. Even when we achieve our aim, we do not get carried away by happiness over victory, because the price we pay is too heavy.
In the year that has passed since the previous Remembrance Day, we embarked on a campaign on the Lebanese border. The Second Lebanon War is another link in the long and painful chain of Israeli campaigns against an enemy which has yet to come to terms with our existence. This war also carried a heavy and painful price.
May this be the last war.
May those wounded in battle and the disabled find a balm for their pain.
May we soon see the hostages returned home.
We have always known, even in the heat of battle, to extend a hand of peace to our neighbors. And each time we were answered with a hand of peace, we put our weapons aside, in order to talk and reach agreements. However, unfortunately, time after time we were answered with calls for fighting and animosity. We are an ancient people. We were born on the land of this country thousands of years ago, and we have the strength to stay here forever. The short lives of the fallen are the ultimate testimony of this. However, we will never despair of achieving the longed-for peace.
We are aware of what is occurring across our borders, and hear also the strengthening of moderate voices. Our duty to the fallen, to the families and to all the citizens of Israel, is to make every possible effort to pave the long road which leads to the prevention of war and to peace.
Night falls on Ammunition Hill, and all across the country the wind stirs the flags which fly at half mast. The sounds of flapping cloth are close and painful. Even when the flag is raised again to full mast and we celebrate Independence Day, we will not forget the images, the valor and the sacrifice of the fallen.
The State of Israel bows its head in sorrow.
May their memories be blessed.