JERUSALEM (Apr. 22)
Israelis stood for a minute in silence Monday night as sirens wailed across the country, officially ushering in the country’s annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers.
President Ezer Weizman was among the Israeli officials who attended the main commemorative ceremony, held at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Recalling the 18,211 soldiers who died in the line of duty since Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, and the more than 1,000 who died before that, Weizman said, “There are still those among our neighbors who have not yet come to realize that the Jewish state is here to stay.”
The names of the fallen soldiers were broadcast on Israeli television.
This year’s commemorations took place against the background of ongoing fighting across the Israeli-Lebanese border.
“More than ever, we realize how much we owe our own lives to those that protect us,” the Israel Defense Force chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak, said at the ceremony.
The commemorations were to continue through Tuesday evening, when a torchlighting ceremony would signal the end of Memorial Day and the beginning of Israel’s 48th Day of Independence.
Memorial ceremonies were scheduled to take place in military cemeteries nationwide, with the exception of Kiryat Shmona, where continued Hezbollah rocket assaults led officials to decide to hold local memorial ceremonies in bomb shelters.