Israel’s Memorial Day, observed in solitude, more somber than usual

A one-minute siren wailed across Israel at 8 p.m. on Monday night marking the beginning of Israel’s Memorial Day — Yom HaZikaron —but this year it was observed for the first time in Israel’s 72-year-history with all public ceremonies canceled and cemeteries closed.

Israelis traditionally mark the somber day with visits to the graves of loved ones, but the government closed cemeteries and memorial sites around the country plus canceled official public observances in order to prevent mass gatherings in light of the coronavirus.

Nevertheless, Israelis paid tribute to the 23,816 fallen soldiers and 4,166 terror victims from their own homes.

“This year, you are alone in your rooms, listening to the echoes of their voices. We cannot come to your homes, we cannot stand alongside you at the military cemeteries. We cannot embrace you,” President Reuven Rivlin said. The siren “shatters the silence and breaks our hearts.”

Rivlin spoke at the Western Wall, where he and top military officials gathered for a televised ceremony.

The believing community is not without its own losses. Messianic and Christians soldiers have fought — and died — alongside their peers and have also been victims of terror. They too are remembered by our community throughout the land on this day. 

Memorial Day officially ends at sundown on Tuesday when Israel marks Independence Day. Normally, Independence Day is celebrated with fireworks and raucous parties across the streets of the nation and then barbecues the following day. 

However this year, in order to prevent these public gatherings, a general curfew will be in effect from Tuesday at 5 p.m., requiring people to remain within 100 meters of their homes and banning intercity travel until Wednesday at 8.m.

To join the Israeli people in this time of mourning, you can read more about the fallen from the believing community here in a previously published article.