Israel observes Memorial Day for fallen soldiers, terror victims
JERUSALEM – With the wail of air raid sirens at sundown Monday, Israel began its annual Memorial Day observance for fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks.Incoming Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who completed formation of his new government earlier Monday, addressed survivors at a ceremony at the site of a bloody battle in Jerusalem during the 1967 Mideast war.”I pledge that we will do all we can to avert further losses and further bereavement over our sons,” he said.According to government statistics, 22,123 Israeli soldiers and civilians have been killed in wars and hostile acts, including 138 soldiers and 45 civilians over the past year.Relatives’ families and soldiers gathered at Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, for the opening ceremony. A color guard stood at attention as air raid sirens signaled a nationwide minute of silence. On Tuesday morning, the sirens will sound again for a two-minute period of tribute before ceremonies in military cemeteries across the nation.Memorial Day in Israel is one of the most somber on the secular calendar. Radio and TV stations broadcast programs devoted to the memory of the soldiers.Memorial Day is followed immediately by Independence Day. At a ceremony in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening, flags will be raised from half-staff to the tops of the flagpoles, and Israel’s 58th birthday party will begin.
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