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Yom HaZikaron

Israel salutes its fallen on first Memorial Day since Oct. 7 tragedy

President Herzog declares 'a year of national mourning'

Israeli soldiers stand still as the memorial siren sounds during the ceremony marking Remembrance Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 12, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90

Israel’s Memorial Day, commemorating the soldiers who fell in the nation's wars and victims of terrorist attacks, began at 8 p.m. on Sunday with a nationwide siren for a minute of silence.

On this year’s particularly mournful Memorial Day, the people of Israel remembered 1,600 soldiers and civilians who perished – either in combat or due to an act of terrorism – over the past year, the deadliest year for the Jewish state in over 50 years.

Israelis attend a rally calling for the release of Israelis held kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Gaza outside the Defense Ministry Headquarters, on the eve of Israeli Memorial Day, in Tel Aviv, May 12, 2024. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90

As in every year, the siren marked the start of ceremonies being held in towns and communities across the country, at cemeteries, community centers and schools. On Monday, a second siren will sound at 11 a.m.

Israeli media outlets displayed images of IDF soldiers in Rafah and the northern Gaza Strip, with some standing at attention on their tanks while marking Memorial Day in the shadow of ongoing fighting.

The start of the central state ceremony at Jerusalem’s Western Wall Plaza was accompanied by red alert rocket alarms in the Gaza Envelope, including Sderot, Nahal Oz, and Shaar HaNegev.

After lighting a memorial torch, President Isaac Herzog appeared on stage wearing a torn shirt, a traditional Jewish symbol of mourning that dates back to the Old Testament.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog (Photo: Screenshot)

“I stand here, next to the remnants of our Temple, in torn garments. This tearing, a symbol of Jewish mourning, it is a symbol of the mourning and sorrow of an entire people in this year – a year of national mourning,” Herzog stated.

“A symbol of a blood-drenched rend in the heart of the people. A tear in the heart of the State of Israel – shattered, bereaved, crying bitter tears, refusing to be comforted for its sons and daughters – soldiers and civilians, civilians and soldiers… A great tragedy has befallen us,” he added.

The Israeli president briefly told the stories of several soldiers and civilians who lost their lives over the past year, stressing that he would want to tell the story of each one of them, “from the bottom of [his] heart.”

The president directed a message to the Israeli hostages who remain in Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip, as well as their families, vowing that they would not be forgotten and the state would do everything to return them.

“The entire nation is with you. We must summon courage and choose life. Not to rest and not to be quiet until they all return home,” Herzog vowed.

“All we wanted was to return to Zion from which we were forcibly expelled, and to renew our freedom there –in a Jewish and democratic state. To build a life here. A future. A hope. We always dreamed of peace and good neighborliness with all the peoples and countries in the region, and no less than that forever. But as long as our enemies seek to destroy us, we will not lay down our swords,” the president said.

After Herzog's speech, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi spoke, acknowledging his responsibility for the failures on Oct. 7 and expressed his accountability.

“I bear responsibility for the fact that the IDF failed in its mission to protect the citizens of the State of Israel on October 7,” Halevi stated.

“I feel its weight on my shoulders every day, and in my heart, I fully understand its meaning. I am the commander who sent your sons and daughters to the battle from which they did not return and to the positions from which they were kidnapped,” Halevi said.

“I carry with me every day the memory of the fallen, and I am responsible for answering the piercing questions that keep you awake. In this war we are determined to complete the mission, although we understand the cost,” he added.

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

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