Photo by Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS-IL on 13 May, 2024

Overshadowed by War and Hostages, Israel Honors Fallen Soldiers

Public By Pesach Benson • 13 May, 2024

Jerusalem, 13 May, 2024 (TPS) -- Israel honored its fallen soldiers on Monday during the nation’s first Memorial Day to occur in wartime, with the uncertain fate of 132 hostages looming over the ceremonies.

The nation paused for a minute of silence as sirens wailed on Sunday night and again on Monday morning, as bereaved families visitited cemeteries.

“This recovery, necessary for all of us – as a nation and as a country – is not only about looking to the future and our building, but also about fixing the present,” said Israeli President Isaac Herzog at a cereony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery.

“And our present will not be whole, and our wound will not heal, until all the hostages return – our beloved brothers and sisters, who are in distress and captivity. It is beholden upon us to bring them all back home: citizens and soldiers, those still living, and those we are committed to bringing to rest in Israel,” Herzog stressed.

“In one breath, on this Memorial Day, we mourn the victims of October 7th and the conflict that ensued – in the South, in the North, in Judea and Samaria, in Jerusalem, and throughout the land; as well as all the victims of hostile acts, from the beginning of Jewish return to the land until our days. We intertwine sorrow with sorrow, tears with tears,” he added.

Also speaking at Mt. Herzl, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Israel would win the war against Hamas.

“It is us, Israel, or them, the monsters of Hamas,” Netanyahu insisted. The Prime Minister was heckled at the beginning and end of his address.

Government ministers speaking at ceremonies in cemeteries in Tel Aviv Netanya, Rehovot, Holon, and Ashdod were also heckled with cries of “Shame,” “Go home,” calls for bringing home the hostages, and curses.

Meanwhile, at a ceremony at the Western Wall on Sunday night, the Israel Defense Force’s top soldier accepted responsibility for the failures of October 7.

“I feel the weight on my shoulders every day, and in my heart I fully understand its meaning,” said Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi. “I carry with me every day the memory of the fallen, and I am responsible for answering the poignant questions that drive sleep from your eyes,” he added, addressing the grieving families.

According to the Defense Ministry, since the last Memorial Day, 766 soldiers were killed, mostly on or since October 7. Another 61 disabled veterans died of complications from injuries suffered in the line of duty.

Memorial Day also honors civilian victims of terror attacks. The National Insurance Insistitute said 834 people were killed in the past year, mostly on October 7.

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Around 30 of the remaining 132 hostages are believed dead.