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As Israel prepares for Memorial Day, Defense Ministry reports 59 fallen soldiers since last year's commemoration

Israel is unique in celebrating Memorial Day and Independence Day consecutively

Israeli soldiers place flags on graves of fallen Israeli soldiers at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem, April 23, 2023, ahead of Israeli Memorial Day. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s Ministry of Defense on Friday released figures of soldiers killed in the last year. They reported that 59 soldiers fell in the line of duty since last Memorial Day.

According to the report, 86 disabled veterans died in the last year due to complications from injuries sustained during military service.

The official figures include all soldiers and police who died in the past year, both killed in action, or died as a result of an accident or illness.

The Defense Ministry noted that the total number of soldiers who died while serving their country since 1860 has risen to 24,213. Israel begins the count in 1860, as it includes the murder of several Zionists who came to the land in the 1800s as having sacrificed their lives for the land of Israel. The first name officially recorded on this list is Aaron Herschler, who was killed in 1873 while defending his neighborhood against a group of hostile Arabs from Silwan.

According to Israel’s National Insurance Institute, the number of Israeli victims killed due to terrorism in the last year totals 31, with 4,255 individuals reportedly killed in terror attacks since 1851. The list of terror victims also begins in the 1800s and includes the early Zionists who came to settle the land. Avraham Goldsmith, who lived in Jerusalem, was killed for his work in helping the Jewish community.

Israel’s Memorial Day starts at sundown on Monday, when a siren will sound for one minute. On Tuesday morning, ahead of ceremonies at national cemeteries across the nation, a two-minute siren will sound.

Established in 1951 by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, Memorial Day is one of the only national non-religious holidays observed by a majority of Israelis, originally created as a memorial for those killed during the War of Independence.

In 1963, Memorial Day was updated to include all soldiers killed in any Israeli war and, in 1998, the commemoration was changed once again to include all Israeli soldiers, police and security personnel killed during hostile activity against the Jewish nation.

Government offices and places of entertainment will be closed on Memorial Day, and regular news coverage will replaced with solemn ceremonies televised from Israel’s state military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

During a typical ceremony, the Israeli flag is lowered to half-mast and a special prayer of remembrance called “Yizkor” is recited.  A speech is then delivered by a member of the Knesset or the government, after which the “El Maleh Rahamim” prayer is recited by a government-selected rabbi. The commemoration ends with a military gun salute.

This year, Rabbi Leo Dee, whose wife and two daughters were murdered in a terror attack at the beginning of the Passover holiday break, will lead the Yizkor prayer.

Israel is unique in observing its Memorial Day and its Independence Day on consecutively days. Originally, the fallen of the War of Independence were commemorated on Independence Day. However, several families complained that it was confusing for them, as they didn’t know whether to mourn or celebrate, so the date of Memorial Day was subsequently changed.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense has released a special smartphone app this year to allow people to find the grave of their fallen family members. The app also includes traditional prayers to recite at the graves of the fallen soldiers.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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