PHOTOS: A nation mourns

Monday, May 09, 2011 |  Ryan Jones  

Israelis on Monday conducted their annual transition from darkness to light, from mourning to celebration as they marked the back-to-back national holidays of Remembrance Day and Independence Day.

At 11 AM Monday morning, a two-minute siren brought the nation to a standstill in remembrance of the 22,867 soldiers, police officers and civilians who have died defending the Land of Israel since 1860 - the year Jews first moved outside Jerusalem's Old City walls and began reclaiming their ancient homeland.

Following the siren, memorial ceremonies were held at 44 cemeteries around the country, including the official national ceremony at Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.

Remembrance Day officially began on Sunday evening - Jewish days are from sunset to sunset. The opening of Remembrance Day was marked at Jerusalem's Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site.

Speaking at the Western Wall ceremony, Israeli President Shimon Peres said:

"We didn't seek war. It was imposed upon us. But when we were attacked, we didn't have the possibility to lose, even one war. And when we won, we returned to seek peace."

In accordance with the sunset-to-sunset order of days in Israel, those who only hours earlier were visiting the graves of lost loved ones were preparing to mark the start of Israel's 63rd Independence Day on Monday evening.

As in other countries, Independence Day in Israel kicks off with numerous fireworks displays and mass celebrations. On Tuesday, nearly every Israeli will visit one of the nation's parks in order to barbecue and celebrate with family and friends.

In few, if any, other countries on earth is the deep sadness of Remembrance Day mashed together with the overriding joy of Independence Day. But doing so in Israel is completely relevant, and just feels right. There is hardly an Israeli who does not know someone who has died defending the nation, and every Israeli is aware that this nation's survival and independence remains threatened.

Remembrance Day
Israeli woman stand in mournful remembrance on a city bus as the sirens wail.

Remembrance Day
Motorists in Jerusalem stop and stand in remembrance during the remembrance siren.

Remembrance Day
An IDF soldier stationed at an Iron Dome anti-missile battery in the south stands for a moment of silence.

Remembrance Day
Tamar and Roi Fogel mourn the massacre of their family by Palestinian terrorists earlier this year. Terror victims are also honored on Israel's Remembrance Day.

Remembrance Day
Soldiers remember lost comrades during a ceremony in Jerusalem.

Remembrance Day
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses bereaved families at Jerusalem's Ammunition Hill.

Remembrance Day
All branches of the military are represented at the Remembrance Day opening ceremony at the Western Wall.

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