News Digest — 5/8/19

Israel Comes To Stand-still As Siren Wails For Memorial Day

Sirens sounded nationwide at 8: p.m. on Tuesday (7th) as Israelis halted and stood silently with heads bowed for a solemn moment in memory of the dead, at the beginning of the Jewish state’s Yom Hazikaron, the national Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks.

In 2019, Israel mourns the loss of 23,741 soldiers who died fighting for Israel since 1860, according to statistics released by the Defense Ministry’s Families and Commemoration Department.

The main Memorial Day ceremony was held at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening (7th).

Memorial day is one of the most somber days of the year for Israel, as bereaved families visit cemeteries and take part in remembrance ceremonies.  Restaurants, theaters and other entertainment venues close, and TV and radio broadcast melancholy music and stories about Israel’s wars and the dead.

At 11:a.m. Wednesday morning (8th) a two-minute siren wailed across Israel and everything came to a standstill.  People exited their cars and everyone stood with heads bowed in memory of Israel’s fallen soldiers. Following the silence, the nation began a series of military ceremonies and approximately 1.5 million people visited more than 50 military cemeteries across the country.

The country mourns through Wednesday evening (8th), when a transition into jubilant celebration takes place with the marking of the beginning of Israel’s 71st anniversary of independence.



Western Wall: Rivlin Speaks At Memorial Ceremony

The main national ceremony, for Israel’s Memorial Day, took place at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening (7th), with President Reuven Rivlin, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, IDF Chief Rabbi Eyal Karim, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and others in attendance.

In all, 95 new names were added over the past year to the roster of 23,741 soldiers who died defending the country.  They include 40 disabled veterans who passed away due to complications from injuries sustained during their service. Sixteen names were also added to the list of terror victims who perished in attacks bringing the total to 3,150.

In his speech, President Rivlin referred to the fact that this is the first Memorial Day since Israel secured the return of the remains of Zachary Baumel, a Brooklyn-born IDF soldier who had been missing since a 1982 battle in Lebanon in which he was presumed killed.  Reports have pointed to intensive efforts to find and repatriate the bodies of other Israelis thought to be in Syria for decades.

“Dear families, citizens of Israel, a month ago, we brought Sergeant First Class Zachary Baumel to eternal rest, 37 years after he fell in the battle of Sultan Yacoub,” Rivlin said in his speech.  “In this way, the State of Israel kept its promise to every mother and father in Israel, the obligation to bring home the men and women who did not return from battle. This is a commitment we continue to make to the families of every one of the missing soldiers of the IDF and those fallen soldiers whose place of burial is unknown.  We will not cease till they have all been brought back.”

The bodies of two Israeli soldiers missing since the 2014 Gaza War, as well as two Israeli civilians who went missing after entering the Strip of their own accord, are believed to be held by the Hamas terror group.

The Western Wall ceremony kicked off 24 hours of mourning and remembrances of the tens of thousands killed in service and by terror, one of two national memorial days, along with last week’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The annual commemoration comes this year in the wake of heightened tensions following a two-day round of intense fighting in and around the Gaza Strip, which saw hundreds of rockets launched at Israeli communities and retaliatory airstrikes on jihadist targets in Gaza.  Four Israeli civilians were killed.

Memorial Day, established in 1951 by then-prime minister and defense minister David Ben Gurion, was set for the 4th of Iyar on the Jewish calendar, the day before Independence Day, which begins immediately after Memorial Day.



Netanyahu: Israel Does Not Rush To War, But Will Guarantee Its Existence

Israel does not rush to battle, but its willingness to sacrifice is the guarantor of its existence, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday (7th), just a day after he agreed to a ceasefire in the south instead of a much wider military campaign against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu’s words came at a ceremony at the Yad Lebanim Memorial in Jerusalem marking Remembrance Day which began Tuesday evening (7th) to commemorate the fallen IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens killed in terrorist actions.

Thanks to those who fell, “our nation stands upright in our homeland, after generations of weakness and humiliation.”

“Seventy-five years ago we were ash,” he continued.  “Today we are a rising world power. Since our national rebirth in our land, every generation stands firm against those who seek our harm.  We do not rush to battle, but we know that our willingness to sacrifice is what guarantees our fate.”

Netanyahu, who lost his brother Yonatan in the IDF raid on Entebbe in 1976 to free hi-jacked Israeli hostages, spoke about how memories of the fallen are always with those who live on after them.

“There is almost never a day when we are not flooded with memories of our loved ones,” he said.  The smiles they smiled, the words they said, the things they did, as if they were really with us, but they are not.”

He spoke of losing a childhood friend in war, and of others he knew who died in the Yom Kippur War.

“Many people I knew fell in the Yom Kippur War, but the house stood,” he said.  “We stopped with great heroism the surprise attack, and merited a miraculous and tremendous victory. We will always remember that the fate of our country stood in the balance, and were it not for our beloved ones who fell, the state would have fallen.  Thanks to them we exist.”

Netanyahu finished his address by pledging to repatriate all of Israel’s missing in action, just as the remains of Zachary Baumel were returned home for burial last month.



‘Twenty Thousand People’: Song Inspired By Mass Funeral For Lone Soldier

The song Twenty Thousand People was written a few years ago, inspired by the mass funeral by Israelis who gathered when they heard that a killed IDF fighter, Sean Carmeli, was a “lone soldier.”

Carmeli was a 21-year-old American citizen, who was killed in a shootout with Hamas terrorists in Gaza.  He immigrated to Israel from Texas while in high school. After graduating, he stayed in Israel and enlisted in the IDF.

Carmeli’s parents decided to move to Israel after his death.

The “One Family” website wrote about the special funeral: “There had been concerns that the lone soldier, who divided his time between Ra’anana and South Padre Island, Texas, where his parents lived, wouldn’t have enough people paying their final respects at his funeral.  Since Carmeli was a huge fan of Maccabi Haifa, the soccer team posted a photo of Carmeli on its Facebook  page after his death, asking fans to go, so that his funeral wouldn’t be deserted.  The team also announced that it would have two buses waiting at the cemetery to bring people back to the country’s center, after the 11: p.m. service.  Tens of thousands of people arrived at Carmeli’s funeral to say a final goodbye to the soldier.

‘Twenty Thousand People’ – (song)

Twenty thousand men and you first – Twenty thousand people after you Sean – Walking quietly with flowers – Two sisters, twenty thousand brothers.

Soccer fans who came with the group’s scarves – And a girl with a flag – It is not clear to her why she is crying so, without knowing you.

Twenty thousand men and you first – Twenty thousand people after you Sean – Walking quietly with flowers – Two sisters, twenty thousand brothers.

They came to say thanks and say goodbye – To say that there is no such thing as a lone soldier – And not alone will he dwell as long as there are in Texas, Haifa and Gush Etzion people that love you Sean.

Twenty thousand men and you first – Twenty thousand people after you Sean – Walking quietly with flowers – Two sisters, twenty thousand brothers.

Who makes peace in His heights? – Make peace upon us – When autumn comes you will not see Sean – That’s why they came here from old to young, from Haifa from Gush Etzion.

Twenty thousand people and you first – Twenty thousand people after you Sean – walking quietly with flowers – Two sisters, twenty thousand brothers.



Ahead Of Independence Day, 220 New Immigrants Arrive From Ukraine

Just a few days before Israeli Independence Day, 220 Jews from Ukraine became new citizens of Israel on Monday (6th), arriving on three separate flights organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.  42 of the olim will be moving to localities in the Gaza Envelope including Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sderot, Gan Yavne and Beersheba.

“We at the Fellowship are proud of every new immigrant who chooses to come to Israel and who is not deterred by the current reality on the ground,” said President of the Fellowship, Yael Eckstein.  “More than anything else, I am inspired by the immigrants who choose to settle in Israel’s southern region.”

Among the 220 new olim from Ukraine, 50 are children up to the age of 18.  The oldest is 84 years of age.

Also this week arriving with “The Fellowship” will be 37 new olim from other countries including: Uruguay, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brazil, Venezuela and France.