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Israel's Time To Remember

Tens Of Thousands Of Israelis Attend Memorial Services For Fallen Soldiers On Remembrance Day

Israel Remains On High Alert For Terror Attacks During Independence Day Celebrations

Israel marked Remembrance Day with memorial ceremonies around the country while remaining on high alert for possible terror attacks from Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in south Lebanon. From early morning, throngs of Israelis began streaming to the military cemeteries around the country. IsraCast says Israel as taken a 'time out' from the political speculation swirling around a police investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as it commemorated Remembrance Day for the 22,347 fallen soldiers who died defending the Jewish state.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Throughout Remembrance Day, tens of thousands of Israelis visit the gravesites of the fallen. They walk slowly into the military cemeteries spread in every corner of the country. Some have been coming for many years, some for only a few weeks. The latest soldier to be killed was Corp. David Pappian, who returned from abroad to do his military service, and was killed in a clash with terrorists from the Gaza Strip. The bereaved mothers and fathers, relatives and friends and they are of all ages - young widows, orphaned children and the elderly grandparents. They place their flowers gently on the grave of their loved one - it is their link to a young man or woman who is frozen in perpetual memory at their age of sudden death.

Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert, Gabi Ashkenazi

The main ceremony is conducted at the Mount Herzl military ceremony in Jerusalem - but similar scenes take place around Israel. Twenty-two thousand four hundred and thirty seven - 2-2-4-3-7, each a world unto him or herself and leaving a shattered family in their wake. Nearly everyone in Israel knows someone close who has been killed and most families have a relative who fell in combat. And the death toll keeps mounting - since last Remembrance Day one-hundred and thirty-two more have died - most in clashes with terrorists from the Gaza Strip.

The sirens sound to mark two minutes of silence...... but that eerie wailing that echoes around the hills of Jerusalem is also the alarm for war - it pierces and penetrates. It can recall in the mind's eye, the face of the fallen soldier who is no more. Israel comes to a halt - drivers by their cars on the highways, people in the streets, children at their schools, people at work and at home. It is a silent salute amid the siren's wail. Millions more watch on TV this ceremony that binds the nation together. On Mount Herzl, all is ready. IDF women soldiers have placed flowers on every military grave in the seemingly endless rows. The blue and white star of David has been lowered to half mast, the honor guard snaps to attention. The nation's leaders and thousands of relatives have gathered to pay homage to those who have died so that Israel might live.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

A bereaved father is called forward to recite Kadeesh for his young son, and the IDF Hazan chants Al Male Rachmamim for the fallen. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert then steps to the rostrum and addresses the hushed throng and the nation: 'our fallen men and women come from the rich and poor, they are religious and secular, new immigrants and veteran families, Oriental and Ashkenazi, and those with differing and opposing views. But on this special day all our differences are forgotten and our common fate rises above all else. Remembrance Day is a sad day but it is a day that unites us all'.

The Prime Minister then addresses the bereaved families: 'I will not try and consol you - I know that is not possible. I can only express the nation's gratitude to you because without their sacrifice we would not be here today. Each one of you, dear families, have your own permanent address among these rows of stone. It is yours and yours alone. Each modest grave is identical with all others - whether it is of a private or of a Chief of Staff. Their legacy to us is to seek peace with all our might but also be ready to give our all in defending Israel'.

With the singing of Hatikva the ceremony ends and the leaders and dignitaries begin to depart. Many of the relatives then walk back to their special address among the rows of stone - to linger again with the memory of their loved one. One father says despite everything the ceremony is meaningful for him and then he adds: ' We, the families really need no remembrance day - we remember them every day of our lives'.

The wreathes have been placed and the mournful last post played before the honor guard fires one last salute...

David Essing

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