Israel is observing its memorial day by honoring its fallen soldiers and civilians in two minutes of silence. The country’s memorial day, know as Yom HaZikaron, is honored annually on the third day of Iyar on the Jewish calendar. Israeli national days, like Jewish holidays and festivals, are marked on the Jewish calendar, which differs from the universal calendar in that it primarily follows the lunar cycle. Unlike the Muslim calendar, however, the Jewish calendar within each 19 year cycle adds an extra month to a certain number of its years, in order to stay consistent with the solar cycle. This makes it possible for the holiday of Passover to always occur in the spring and the festival of Sukkot to occur each fall, unlike the Muslim calendar where Ramadan can occur any season of the year.
At 8PM Tuesday night, a siren sounded off, marking the beginning of Israel’s memorial day, which like all Jewish holidays and festivals begins at sunset. Then at 11AM today, a two minute siren went off, indicating to all citizens stop their activity for two minutes of silence to honor the 23,320 soldiers and civilians who were killed since 1860 either in battle, riots, many which occurred in the 1920’s and 30’s, and terrorist attacks. 1860 marks the beginning of Israel’s push for independence when Jews living in Jerusalem built their first neighborhood outside the walls of the Old City.
The sirens were followed by an address given by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon at Kiryat Shaul military cemetery, where he spoke of his commitment to peace with those who were willing to take that step, and at the same time reiterated Israel’s commitment to protecting its citizens. At a Mount Herzl cemetery, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the same commitment, showing his support for the soldiers and their families and pledging his commitment to keep Israel safe and prosperous, while calling out to his neighbors to stop the incitement of hatred and glorifying terror.
In his Memorial Day speech, honoring Israel’s fallen, Netanyahu also pointed out terror attacks, which occurred both within the country and abroad. For example, he mentioned the January attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris, which left eight dead. He indicated that those who wish to harm Israel do not differentiate between Jews and non-Jews, or soldiers and civilians, and that their hatred is a blind one.
This year 116 people were added to the list, out of which 67 of them were killed in Operation Protective Edge, fought last summer in response to Hamas’ incessant cross-border attacks from Gaza. Also added to the list was Mohammed Abu Khder, a Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped and burned alive by Jewish assailants in a horrific act of vengeance, spurred by the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers by Arabs. However, the Palestinian youth’s father, Hussein Abu Khder requested that his son’s name be removed, since as a Palestinian he did not want his son’s name alongside the names Israeli soldiers.
The memorial, which Israel has built to honor its fallen on this day, is located on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, and consists of two walls. One of them lists the soldiers who fell and the second one its civilians, many who, in addition to Jews consist of Arabs, Druze, and Bedouins. Israel’s population stands at 8,345,000, with 6,251,000 being Jews and making up about 74.9 percent of the population. Israeli Arab citizens, both Muslim and Christian comprise about 20.7 percent of the population, and number about 1,730,000. The remainder of the population accounts for Bedouins, Druze, non-Arab Christians, and other ethnic groups. Also included in these figures are approximately 310,000 Arab residents of the eastern Jerusalem, which was captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed later on. Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem to be its eternal capital, however the international community refuses to recognize this, despite the fact that the U.N. charter specifically allows a country to designate its capital in the city of its choice.
By Bill Ades