Jerusalem, Apr 14 (EFE).- Israel came to a standstill on Wednesday as the country paid tribute to its fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism.
For the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak, people were able to gather at military cemeteries to lay flowers and remember the dead, a tradition that was curtailed by health restrictions last year.
Across Israel, sirens rang out for two minutes on Wednesday morning, prompting pedestrians and vehicles to come to a halt to mark Yom HaZikaron, which began at sundown on Tuesday in accordance with Jewish tradition.
Remembrance Day in Israel, a solemn occasion, gives way to the celebratory Independence Day, which officially begins at sunset on Wednesday with festivities taking place throughout Thursday
From the early morning, many Israelis visited the 52 military cemeteries dotted across the country to lay flowers, drape flags or light candles on the tombs of family members and friends killed on duty or by acts of terrorism.
Last year’s ceremonies took place at the end of April, as per the Hebrew calendar, during the first wave of Covid-19 in the country. Government restrictions in place to stem the spread of coronavirus meant Israelis had to mark the occasion from their homes, with many of the ceremonies broadcast online or on TV.
This year, pedestrians were back out on the streets of Jerusalem with few Covid-19 restrictions in place thanks to one of the fast vaccination campaigns in the world, which has helped to greatly reduce deaths and infections and has allowed the country to almost completely return to normality.
Israel’s acting prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu led an official ceremony at the Monte Herzl national cemetery and memorial center.
“We should never be complacent in the face of threats of war,” he told the audience in what local media interpreted as a reference to the heightening of tension with Iran, which recently accused Israel of launching a sabotage attack on the Natanz nuclear plant.
Yom HaZikaron honors those who have died since 1860, when the first Jewish neighborhood outside the walled city of Jerusalem was established.
In that time, a recorded total of 23,928 soldiers have died in combat and 4,176 people have died in terrorist attacks.
The Independence Day celebrations, or Yom Ha’atzmaut, mark the occasion when Ben Gurion read out the declaration of the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.
Many Israelis mark the day with family gatherings, picnics and barbeques. EFE