The construction of a new remembrance hall on Mt. Herzl will begin Wednesday after a brief ceremony. The hall, with an estimated cost of 40 million shekels, is expected to be one of the most unique and complex structures in Israel, and the Defense Ministry expects it will host state ceremonies when it is completed.
The new remembrance hall will have the name of every fallen soldier and security agent – a number which stood at 23,085 as of Memorial Day 2013. The name of every casualty of war and terror will be engraved on a brick with the date of their death.
The hall will be built in the shape of a torch, 18 meters tall, in which a flame will burn year-round. Construction on the complex structure will begin in two months and is expected to end a year and a half later.
The head of the Families and Commemoration Department within the Defense Ministry, Aryeh Moalem, explained that "this is a historic project. As of today, commemoration in Israel is done at 'military memorials' like those in Latroun and the Golani junction."
However, not all of the Israeli casualties occurred at these military sites. Moalem explained further: "More than 3,000 casualties of war are not commemorated at a memorial site because they did not die in one. This hall is meant to fix that injustice."
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Another reason for the massive investment in the project, according to Moalem, is the concern of certain families for the memory of their loved ones. "The bereaved families are aging, especially the parents who lost children in the (1973) Yom Kippur War. Over the years they raised the concern of memorializing their kids once they pass away – who will light the candle, who will read the Kaddish?"
Moalem emphasized the plight of the aging parents: "This thought stayed with me, and finally, here, the country responds to the request of personal remembrance – to assure that someone will remember their son or their daughter."
The actual commemoration bricks will be constructed out of tank armor using relatively-new technology at the factory which produces the Merkava tank. According to the plans for the new hall, every morning a memorial service will take place for the soldiers whose lives ended that day. The annual commemoration of a soldier's death will be remembered by lighting his name on the wall; in another part of the hall, their face will be projected on the wall and their biography read aloud.
After years of planning and deliberating, the foundation stone of the new hall will be laid Wednesday, at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the heads of the police, Mossad, Shin Bet, and other Israeli officials.