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Israel mourns its fallen soldiers

Israelis honored their 22,437 compatriots who died in defense of the Jewish state.

Israel came to a halt Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning as sirens sounded across the nation to mark Memorial Day.

As on every year, entertainment venues shut down and radio and television broadcasters aired solemn programs out of respect for Israel’s 22,437 fallen – a figure that includes those killed while serving in the armed forces and in the pre-state Jewish underground. Another 1,634 Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks.

“Year after year we promise and pray that this will be the final victim, and then we return and with heavy hearts engrave another name on the monuments of the slain,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a speech. “And the stone absorbs the names of the fallen in silence; another name and another life cut off in its prime, but the sharp pain must be borne and it flays the heart every time we remember the image of those who will not return.”

“However, this year, as well, when courageous military actions were required in the various sectors against the increasing terror which cruelly strikes its victims, this year as well we nurture in our hearts the hope for a different tomorrow, a tomorrow which will bring a chance, a tomorrow which possibly will bring peace,” he said.

Memorial Day ends at nightfall Wednesday and is followed immediately by the jubilation of Israel’s 60th Independence Day.

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