IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot paid his respect to Israel's fallen soldiers and civilians killed in terror attacks, saying it was Israelis national duty to remember those who fell.
"We, the IDF commanders and soldiers, stand today and salute the memory of our comrades, commanders and subordinates, who fell in the line of duty. The fallen were some of the best sons and daughters of the country," he wrote as part on his annual Memorial Day order.
"We, who have been left with the longing, carry their memories and painful void they left behind with us. The monuments which stand across the country are a silent testimony to the battles and challenges that Israel has known, evidence of the stories of heroism and victory and our promise to remember the fallen. It is our duty to commemorate their life stories and their life's work," wrote Eizenkot.
On Wednesday at 11 am an additional two-minute siren will be sounded and another official memorial service for the fallen will be held at Mt. Herzl together with the prime minister and IDF chief of staff. At the same time, the defense minister will lead the ceremony at Tel Aviv's Kiryat Shaul cemetery.
As every year, thousands of people are expected to attend Kiryat Shaul ceremony. Over the past month, the Defense Ministry's Families and Commemoration Department has been making preparations for the ceremony, which involves complex logistics and requires many rehearsals.
Hundreds of buses and shuttles will be made available to the public at Mt. Herzl and to other central ceremonies, and 450,000 water bottles will be handed out to the bereaved families and the public at the cemeteries.
The state also distributed some 120,000 flower reefs to be placed on the fallen's graves, and 20,000 chairs will be placed throughout military cemeteries for bereaved parents.
The Kiryat Shaul cemetery manager Lior Yamin urges Israelis to attend: "The entire nation is invited to the ceremony," Yamin said. "Thousands of people come and the parking lots get filled to the brim; the police gives us assistance." Shuttles are expected to pick up the families from the parking lots.
"We have been doing this for many years. We have the knowledge and experience to do it without any problems, and that is our goal for this year as well."
Among those attending the ceremony are the defense minister, representatives of eight local authorities and many bereaved families. Last year, close to 60,000 people participated in the ceremony.
As of April 14 2015, Israel had lost some 23,320 of its sons and daughters, 116 of them in the last year alone – 67 of those soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge. Some 35 wounded veterans passed away this year as a result of their injuries, and were thus also recognized as fallen soldiers, the Defense Ministry said.
More than just remembering the fallen, the day also gives Israelis a chance to show their respect for the 'family of bereaved' – an umbrella term for all those families who lost their loved ones to terror or war – currently numbering 9,753 bereaved parents, 4,958 widows and 2,049 orphans (under 30); together they number 16,760.
In the past year, as a result of summer war in Gaza, the 67 fallen soldiers added 154 bereaved parents to the 'family'; 26 children were orphaned as a result of Operation Protective Edge; including two who were born after their fathers fell.