Year after year, Israel commemorates its fallen soldiers and victims of terror. On this day, we say to each of these fallen soldiers: Thank you. Thank you for protecting our country and our people. Without you, the sovereign State of Israel could not exist.
As the sun sets tonight, people gather in different parts of the country and stand together, as one united family, while the sound of the siren fills us with sadness and honor. At that moment, Israelis stop what they are doing, wherever they are, and stand at attention — even if they are on the highway, they stop their cars and stand outside for 60 seconds. That siren announces the beginning of a 24-hour period of mourning.
“Our actions continue the legacy of the fallen soldiers and ensure our future as a strong people, powerful and free in our land.” – IDF (Zahal) Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.
We remember our children, siblings, grandchildren and friends. We remember our heroes, who sacrificed their lives in order to prevent our enemies from murdering dozens more. We remember countless victims of terrorist attacks in restaurants, busses, nightclubs, college campuses and more. We remember these people whose lives were cut short, unjustly taken.
We are deeply pained by their absence and mournful for their loss. Yet we remember and honor them, and keep them close in our hearts.
To date, 23,169 soldiers have died since the establishment of the State of Israel. Today, we commemorate each and every one of them.
Watch as a whole country ceases its work, freezes and remembers those who have given their life to defend Israel.
Tomorrow, as the sun begins to set once again, the mood changes. The streets are suddenly filled with people celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. The celebrations continue into the next day – the entire country is on holiday and enjoying itself.
But how can we make this switch so suddenly? Have we forgotten that but moments before, our hearts were heavy with grief for the family and friends that we lost, and continue to lose every year?
Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut are back-to-back for a purpose. The celebrations of Independence Day are not empty or for their own sake. We celebrate with the acute awareness that without the incredible sacrifice of those we lost, there would be no State of Israel. Yom HaZikaron fills our Yom HaAtzmaut with meaning. We remember the terrible price we have had to pay for our freedom, and because of the price, we value that freedom all the more intensely.
This year, the IDF (Zahal) commemorates some of its fallen soldiers with the website In Memoriam. In Memoriam is a special project, meant to honor a small selection of fallen soldiers chosen at random, and to tell the stories of those who lost their lives defending the State of Israel.