(TPS) Israeli government, opposition and defense officials urged politicians and the public not to politicize Memorial Day, which begins Monday at sunset.
“It’s on us to respect the cemeteries and not to turn them into arenas of debate,” said Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi. “Restraint and silence have a deafening power, and paying respects for our fallen loved ones isn’t possible with the noise of argument.”
Halevi said, “Many families in Israel are hurting because the bereavement has no address; It can knock on the door of any family whose sons and daughters serve in the military.”
Government officials traditionally give speeches at military ceremonies, but divisions over a highly controversial judicial overhaul initiative threaten to cast a pall. An organization representing reservists opposed to the initiative has also called on the public not to block roads so that bereaved families can visit cemeteries.
On Saturday night, between 110,000-165,000 demonstrated against the government in Tel Aviv. Tens of thousands of attended similar protests in Jerusalem and Haifa.
The governing coalition’s judicial reforms are deeply controversial. Legislation advancing through the Knesset would primarily alter the way judges are appointed and removed, give the Knesset the ability to override certain Supreme Court rulings, restrict the ability of judges to apply standards of “reasonableness,” and change the way legal advisors are appointed to government ministries.
Supporters of the legal overhaul say they want to end years of judicial overreach while opponents describe the proposals as anti-democratic.
President Isaac Herzog is trying to broker a compromise, but the outcome of those efforts is uncertain.
Memorial Day begins at sundown on April 24. Sirens will wail at 8:00 p.m. and again at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 25 as the nation joins in a minute of silence. Ceremonies on Tuesday will be held across the country and families of the fallen will visit the graves.
“On the coming Memorial Day, we will not protest because our hearts will be with our brothers and sisters in arms who fell in battle, we will bow our heads for them, we will cry and hug the families,” said the Brothers in Arms group said in a statement. “We call on all the brothers and sisters in arms to leave their protest shirts at home and not to come to the cemeteries with them.”
Memorial Day also honors deceased members of the Israel Police, Mossad, Israeli Prison Service and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet). This includes Druze, Bedouins, Christians and Muslims. It also honors civilians killed in terror attacks and other hostile acts.
Since last Memorial Day, 31 civilians and 59 soldiers have been killed, while another 86 veterans died of complications from injuries suffered during military service, according to figures released by the Defense Ministry and National Insurance Institute.
Overall, 24,213 people have died during service to the country since 1860, when Jews first began moving outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. This includes members of various pre-state underground militias who fought the British.
The number of civilians killed stands at 4,255, including 740 children and teenagers 18-years-old or younger. The number also includes 120 Israelis killed abroad and 135 foreign citizens killed in terror attacks.
A torch-lighting ceremony at the Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery on April 25 towards sundown marks the transition from the somber Memorial Day to the joy of Independence Day.
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