Israelis Set to Honor its Fallen

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel's annual Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, begins at sundown Sunday and continues through sundown Monday.

A ceremony at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem's Old City, where the flag is lowered to half-mast, marks the official beginning of this solemn day.

Israelis of every stripe, from religious to secular, honor the memories of soldiers, border guards and police officers who died defending the country, as well as civilians killed in terror attacks.

At 11 a.m. Monday, the country comes to a literal standstill as a two-minute siren sounds nationwide to remember Israel's fallen.

Television stations replace regular programming with stories about soldiers and their families.

A national memorial service takes place at Jerusalem's Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery.

Government offices and most public places of entertainment, such as restaurants and theatres, are closed Monday, and families who've lost loved ones visit military cemeteries nationwide where they recite the Kaddish, a traditional prayer praising God and His coming kingdom on earth.

"Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He…."

Though observed unofficially since the Jewish state's re-establishment in 1948, the day was officially recognized in 1963 when the Knesset designated the fourth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar as Yom Hazikaron. In 1980, legislators expanded the law to include Israelis killed during pre-state years.

Annual figures released by the Defense Ministry Friday set the total number of fallen at 23,085. According to the report, more than 17,000 families have lost a loved one serving in the IDF, leaving more than 5,000 widows and about 2,000 orphaned children.

The ministry estimates that 1.5 million Israelis will mark the day at military cemeteries.

At sunset Monday, the country transitions from solemnity to joy of Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day, this year marking 65 years since the modern Jewish nation-state was established on May 14, 1948.

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