Israel Mourns Her Fallen

At 11am today, Israelis stood for two minutes of silence in remembrance of the country’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror. All around the country people stopped what they were doing and stood with heads bowed in respect.

Reuven Rivlin stands in silence at the President’s Residence
Reuven Rivlin stands in silence at the President’s Residence (photo: Mark Neyman/GPO)

For the first time since the founding of the modern State of Israel, 72 years ago, military cemeteries were blocked off and people were asked to mourn in isolation. The Coronavirus Pandemic transformed the commemorations from the large gatherings that would have taken place.

Cemeteries would normally have been full of the families and friends of loved ones they had lost. But this year there were just a few soldiers and officials in them as sirens rang out around the country.

The Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron, in Hebrew) actually began at 8pm on Monday when the sound of an air raid siren prompted a minute of silence. Drivers stopped their cars and stood on the roads whilst many other Israelis moved out onto their balconies and into their gardens to mark this day of mourning. Israelis feel acutely the loss of every individual in the struggle for their homeland.

An Israeli nurse mourns a loved one
An Israeli nurse mourns a loved one (photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

According to the Defence Ministry, Israeli casualties of war number 23,816, including soldiers, police and others killed whilst serving their country. In addition, there have been 4,166 victims of terrorist attacks who are remembered on this day each year.

Both numbers date all the way back to 1860, long before the modern state was founded. But most of the casualties occurred in the armed conflict that saw the establishment of the modern state in 1948 and subsequent conflicts.