All Israel Wept for Soldiers Who Fell in the Yom Kippur War

Israel wept today, individually and collectively, as solemn memorial services were held for the 1854 soldiers who fell in battle during the Yom Kippur War. The bereaved families–hundreds of them from all parts of the country and all stations in life–gathered in temporary military cemeteries at Afuleh in the Jezreel Valley and Mishmar Hanegev. Soldiers killed on the northern front in the battle with Syria were buried at Afuleh and those who died on the Egyptian front were laid to rest in the Negev. They were buried with full military honors and in accordance with Jewish tradition which requires prompt burial. The families have the option of having their loved ones re-interred at a later date.

It was only last night that the death toll of the Yom Kippur War was announced to the Israeli public. Today, the families came to the cemeteries–kibbutzniks and city dwellers, new immigrants and old established families, westerners, and Jews in the traditional dress of their Oriental countries of origin, civilians, and men and women in the khaki uniforms of the armed services. Families of Black Panthers from the slums of Jerusalem shared their grief side-by-side with affluent families from Tel Aviv, Mt. Carmel and the wealthy suburb of Savion. They heard the prayers of the rabbis–the Army Chief Chaplain Gen. Mordechai Firon and his deputy Col. Gad Navon were at the Negev cemetery–the solemn words of Chief of Staff Gen. David Elazar: “The entire people of Israel in their hearts share the memory of its heroes with the bereaved families who may find consolation in their sons’ devotion and sacrifice.”

But the mourners could not be consoled. They wept rivers of tears. Women, men and children cried unashamedly for fallen sons, husbands, fathers and brothers. The bugles sounded the funereal notes of mourning as flags were lowered to half mast. Cantors chanted the “El Moleh Rahamim,” the traditional prayer for the departed, adapted for the fallen of Israel’s defense forces. Eulogies were recited by the commanding officers of individual units. The dead lay beneath heaps of earth topped by rectangular white bricks. On each grave a small sign bore the name, serial number and date of death of the soldier. The grim task of identifying the dead fell to the army chaplainship corps; in some cases, remains were so badly mangled that police laboratories and scientists had to help in the identification process.

Parents of cadets of the artillery officers training course who fell in the war were presented with the insignia and commissions their sons would have received had they not been called to battle and slain before they were graduated. The presentations were made at graduation ceremonies today. The Israeli artillery commander, Brig. Gen. Nathan Sharoni told them, “Your children have fallen for the right to live in this country.”

And as the nation grieved reports arrived here from Geneva that a Red Cross spokesman expressed fear that some 100 Israeli POWs were massacred-by the Syrians. From Paris it was reported that Syrians had massacred Israeli soldiers at a Golan Heights outpost. Pierre de Benouville, president of the France-Israel Parliamentary Group and a member of the Parliamentary majority, who returned from Israel Sunday said today that he and other French deputies visiting the outpost which the Syrians captured in the first hours of the Yom Kippur War saw numerous traces of blood on the outside and interior walls of the outpost. This “left no doubt as to how the blood got splattered. There was a massacre,” he said. De Benouville said his group was shown photographs, taken by the Syrians, of Israeli soldiers who had been mutilated. They were also taken through a hospital ward by Israeli doctors where they saw wounded Israeli soldiers whose wounds consisted of long slashes made with knife blades, he reported. (By Yitzhak Shargil.)

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