‘A year of national mourning’: Israel marks Memorial Day amid ongoing war

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‘A year of national mourning’: Israel marks Memorial Day amid ongoing war

'Tonight, we have no peace, and there is no silence. Because this year is not like any other year,' President Isaac Herzog said

President Herzog on Memorial Day, 2024. Photo credit: Ma'ayan Toaf (GPO)
President Herzog on Memorial Day, 2024. Photo credit: Ma'ayan Toaf (GPO)

Israel came to a standstill on Sunday evening as sirens sounded across the nation to commemorate the fallen soldiers and victims of terror since 1948. 

President Isaac Herzog this evening opened the annual ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, marking the beginning of Israel’s Memorial Day for the 25,040 fallen soldiers.

“Every year, after the sounding of the Shofar, there reigns here in the
expanse of the Western Wall Plaza a sacred, special silence, preserved
only for this moment of the year. But tonight, we have no peace, and
there is no silence. Because this year is not like any other year,” Herzog said.

The president, wearing torn garments (a symbol of Jewish mourning) said it was a symbol of the mourning and sorrow of an “entire people in this year – a year of national mourning. A symbol of a blood drenched rend in the heart of the people. A tear in the heart of the State of Israel – shattered, bereaved, crying bitter tears, refusing to be comforted for its sons and daughters – soldiers and civilians, civilians and soldiers. Our voices do not refrain from weeping, and our eyes from shedding tears. A
great tragedy has befallen us.”

Herzog highlighted a few of the soldiers who had fallen, saying he wished he could tell about “each and every one.”

“About their goodness, their beauty, their bravery. But the fracture is
so great, and our losses are too many, too many indeed. There are moments – there, in the new plots – where one’s breath is taken away, and one’s heart shattered to pieces. Grave next to grave. Noam and Yishai Slutzky. On October 7, the Slutzky brothers left their wives and children, and although no one commanded of them – hurried to come and fight in Kibbutz Alumim. Together they stormed and killed dozens of terrorists. Together they fell in battle,” he said.

“I bear responsibility”

IDF chief of staff Herzl Halevi took the podium after President Herzog, stating that he, as commander of the army, takes full responsibility for the tragedy of October 7.

“As the commander of the IDF during war, I bear the responsibility for the failure of the IDF to defend our civilians on October 7th. I carry its weight on my shoulders daily, and in my heart, I fully understand its significance,” he said.

“I bow my head in tribute to the civilians we could not save, to our comrades of the alert squads and security services and to the fallen soldiers of the IDF, men and women in reserve or active duty, who died in battle since the war began. They were warriors, who bore full responsibility for missions of security and defence, rose to the occasion and stormed ahead without waiting for orders. They were women who stuck to their posts and would not abandon them in the face of approaching evil,” he added.

Halevi also addressed the parents of the fallen soldiers, saying: I am the commander who sent your sons and daughters into the battle from which they never returned, and to the posts from which they were taken hostage. I carry the memory of the fallen with me and I am responsible for providing answers to the difficult questions that haunt you.”

“I did not know all of the fallen soldiers, yet I shall never forget them. I have not been able to visit their homes, yet I am forever committed to you – parents, children, siblings, partners and grandparents. I stand humbly before your courage to endure pain, to gather the strength each day despite heavy loss, and fill the void with meaning,” he added.

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