Solemn Memorial Day Observances in Israel Proceed Independence Day Celebrations
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Solemn Memorial Day Observances in Israel Proceed Independence Day Celebrations

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Israel observed a solemn memorial day today for its fallen soldiers and the men and women who fought for independence in the pre-statehood era. The memorial period was ushered in by the wailing of sirens yesterday evening. When the sirens sound again tonight, they will mark the start of Israel’s 21st Independence Day celebrations.

A memorial flame was kindled at the Western Wall last night by President Zalman Shazar and memorial lamps and candles were lighted simultaneously all over the country. At mid-morning today sirens signalled a halt in traffic. Vehicles stopped and pedestrians stood at attention to observe two minutes of silence for the war dead. A special memorial service was held at the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv where a guard of honor was formed by veterans of Haganah, the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Sternists and other former underground groups. Memorial services were held at military cemeteries attended by thousands of members of bereaved families. Veterans and members of the Gadna youth brigades marched together in a memorial parade through Jerusalem’s main thoroughfares.

With no military parade to serve as a focal point, tomorrow’s Independence Day festivities will be held in various localities. Security forces were taking strict precautions to forestall possible terrorist attempts at violence. Police and civil defense guards have already taken up positions in strategic areas and the public has been urged to be on the alert for suspicious movements. Special sandbagged areas have been earmarked for the disposal of suspicious items.

The precautionary measures were prompted by increased attempts at infiltration by Arab saboteurs in recent days. Terrorists were expected to try to demonstrate their strength on the occasion of Independence Day, the second since the Six-Day War. Egyptian attacks across the Suez Canal and increased fighting along the Jordanian border were believed to be coordinated with terrorist movements in an attempt to impress the Four Powers who are meeting in New York on the Middle East dispute with the gravity of the Mideast situation.

But Prime Minister Golda Meir, in an Independence Day message taped for Jewish communities all over the world, declared that no trace of fear or panic could be found in Israel. She invited everyone to visit the restored campus of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus which had been isolated by Jordanian forces until the June, 1967 war. President Zalman Shazar said in a message over Kol Israel that Israel will continue to defend herself but will not pause in her building efforts or weaken her faith. He predicted that a time of cooperation and mutual understanding will come to the region.

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