In anguish, longing, 1.5 million Israelis pay respects at military cemeteries nationwide

The annual two-minute memorial siren sounded at 11 a.m. Israel time, bringing the country to a halt on Monday to commemorate the 23,544 members of the security forces and 3,117 terror victims in Israel’s history.

Road closures and increased train traffic surrounded the country’s 52 military cemeteries and hundreds of smaller military sections in civilian cemeteries nationwide to accommodate some 1.5 million Israeli expected to pay their respects at the gravesides of fallen soldiers and others killed in Israel’s wars and struggles.

At 11:02 a.m., the official commemoration ceremony began at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl with a prayer for the dead by IDF Chief Rabbi Brig. Gen. Eyal Karim.

The day is marked annually with candle-lighting ceremonies, melancholy music on the radio and newspaper features and TV programs about those who died.

The memorial day began the previous evening with a one-minute siren at 8 p.m. Sunday, though some local events began earlier, including an official event for fallen soldiers at Jerusalem’s Yad Labanim, or Memorial for the Sons, attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Monday morning ceremony is joined by families of the fallen, soldiers from across the army’s units and divisions, as well as the nation’s leaders, President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chief rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein,
Supreme Court chief justice Miriam Naor, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, lawmakers and high schoolers from the Jerusalem area.

A separate official ceremony honoring the 3,117 who died in acts of terror will begin at 1 p.m at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

On Monday morning, The Jewish Agency held a ceremony commemorating the victims of anti-Semitic attacks around the world at its headquarters building in central Jerusalem.