JERUSALEM (JTA) — A siren wailed across Israel marking the start of the country’s Memorial Day.
Sunday’s siren at 8 p.m. was followed by the national memorial service at the Western Wall broadcast by Israeli television channels.
A second siren on Monday at 11 a.m. will mark the beginning of memorial services at Israel’s 52 military cemeteries.
Memorial Day, or Yom Hazikaron, this year honors the 23,169 casualties of war and terrorism who have been killed since 1860.
“The fallen of Israel’s wars are our national heroes,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday afternoon at the opening ceremony for Memorial Day held in the Yad Labanim compound in Jerusalem. “We would not be here today if not for their willingness to lay down their lives so we could be here. Never, not even for a moment, do we forget we are here thanks to them.”
Netanyahu visited the grave of his brother Yoni on Saturday night with his wife, Sara. They went a day early to the military cemetery on Mount Herzl so as not to interfere with the crowds who will visit there on Memorial Day.
Yoni Netanyahu was killed during a rescue operation to release hostages during Operation Entebbe in 1976.
On Monday morning, the annual ceremony in memory of victims of anti-Semitic incidents and terror attacks around the world will take place at the Jewish Agency for Israel in Jerusalem in a program sponsored by The Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish National Fund, Keren Hayesod-UIA, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA.
According to Jewish Agency figures, some 200 Jews have been killed in anti-Semitic terror attacks around the world since Israel’s establishment in 1948.