As it does every year, one -minute siren wailed across Israel at 8pm Monday to mark the start of Memorial Day for the country's fallen soldiers and terror victims, known as Yom Hazikaron.
While bereaved Israelis traditionally mark the day with visits to the graves of loved ones, the decision this year to limit the number of visitors to the cemeteries due to the coronavirus has sparked anger and compounded the grief.
As per Health Ministry's instructions, cemeteries and memorial sites all across the country have closed their doors to visitors until Wednesday evening, with a bolstered police presence at key sites in order to prevent mass gatherings.
Due to the upset of bereaved families who are unable to visits the graves of their loved ones, officers were instructed to focus on prevention and outreach activities, explaining the importance of adhering the emergency regulations amid the coronavirus spread.
Earlier Monday, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett visited the Mount Herzl military cemetery, accompanied by Aryeh Mualem, the head of the Defense Ministry's department for the commemoration of fallen soldiers.
The two met with Tami Shelach, the chair of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization.
The one-minute siren was followed by a national memorial ceremony held at the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem with no crowd and the few attendees observing social distancing and wearing face masks.
President Reuven Rivlin spoke at the start of the ceremony, while audiences at home were called upon to sing the national anthem from their balconies and windows.
At 9pm, a memorial service was to be held at the Knesset plaza in Jerusalem.
Also at 9pm, a special memorial called “Songs in Their Memory" was expected to take place inside the Knesset.
It was to be recorded without an audience and shown on Channel 11 at 9pm and Channel 12 at 10:10pm.
On Tuesday, a two-minute siren will sound across the country at 11am, followed by the main memorial service honoring the fallen IDF soldiers on Mount Herzl in the capital.
Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bennett were all expected to attend the event.
The main memorial service for the victims of terror attacks will be held immediately afterward at 1pm. Both events will be held without an audience.
Forty-two soldiers have been killed since last Memorial Day and the number of Israeli casualties of war stands at 23,816, counted since 1873, according to figures released by the Defense Ministry.
The total number of terror victims stands at 4,166, with the last victim being Rina Shnerb, who was killed in August 2019, when she was hit by an improvised explosive device when she visited Danny Spring near the West Bank settlement of Dolev.
At 9:40am Wednesday, a ceremonial flyby will be held by the IAF's acrobatic planes wing over the country's hospitals in honor of Israel's medical workers who are battling COVID-19 epidemic.
At 7:40pm on Wednesday, the traditional transition ceremony from Memorial Day to Independence Day will be held at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. The national atmosphere then moves from one of sadness and grief to celebration at the 72nd anniversary of creation of the state.
The 72nd Independence Day festivities will end at 7:30pm Wednesday with the Israel Prize award ceremony.
First published: 19:33, 04.27.20