Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Israel mourns its fallen

Yom Kippur War widow at her husband's grave-site.
Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski

Honorary guard comprised of Air Force, Navy and Infantry soldiers stand alongside flag at half-mast at the Kotel on Tuesday night
Photo: Channel 1


The nation bowed its head Tuesday evening, Remembrance Day, mourning the 20,368 servicemen and women who have fallen in its defense since November 1947.

Including all those who fell defending the Land of Israel since 1860, the number reaches 21,954.

In the past year, 169 members of the police, IDF, Border Police, Prisons Service, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and other organizations have been killed in the service of the state.

Remembrance Day officially began Tuesday evening, when President Moshe Katsav opened the ceremony at the Western Wall. Representatives of bereaved parents and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon were attending the ceremony.

A one-minute siren sounded across the country at 8 p.m., as citizens stopped in silent commemoration.

"Tonight all the people of Israel are standing in silent, bowing our heads, filled with pain and agony," President Katsav told the crowd at the Wall.

"The torches we are lighting today here are like the eternal candle that was lit in the Temple, a light which was never put off; it lights our faith in the future. We choose to remember the fallen here, at the kotel, where our temple once stood.

"The price we paid for independence was extremely high. We are making every effort that the next generation will be able to put down the guns.

"We are again facing difficult and complex decisions. There are many hardships on the way to peace – but we shall walk toward it, side by side.

"Tonight, as fresh flowers are put on the graves, there are no disagreements. We forget all internal strife and remember: We are one people. We are one nation, with one past and one destiny.

"The fallen have given us the most precious thing in the world. We make a vow today to be worthy of their memory."

In his address, Chief of Staff Ya'alon vowed never to forget.

"A nation which knows the price of independence gathers tonight at our eternal capital to remember those who fell in the service of the state. Silent members in our nation that paid with their lives.

"We came to remember those who will always remain young in our imagination, so near but yet so far."

The commander of the IDF added, "As chief of staff and throughout 37 years of service, I have always been with you dear families, in every step I take and in every decision I make.

"Today, the day we engrave in our hearts. We remember those who paid with their lives; from the city, village, kibbutz, whether new Olim, Beduin, Circassians and Druse. Today, we came to acknowledge that we are here because of their sacrifice."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke earlier Tuesday, at a ceremony for the fallen ,of his personal grief as a former soldier and commander.

"I see the faces of my friends, my commanders and those who served under my command - familiar faces covered in dust, furrowed in effort. I hear voices cut off by the sound of metal, a deafening boom of explosions. I smell the sweat and fire of the battlefield. In the soul of every fighter and every commander who led soldiers, are many friends, and each of them hold a warm place in their heart, like an album with photographs which have yellowed over the years, but still show a refreshing view of other, nostalgic times.

"Your pain is our pain, your grief is our grief, because the fallen are precious children to us all, and for us they gave their lives. They are deserving of eternal gratitude and eternal glory. Israel's magnificence, which includes 57 years of independence and accomplishments unprecedented among nations - is thanks to them.



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