The official memorial hall on Mount Herzl was unveiled Thursday morning, which will be inaugurated on Sunday—the eve of Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers.
The new memorial hall is a stone-made mountain, towering to a height of 18 meters, and comprises more than 23,000 bricks, each bearing the name of the fallen and the date of their death.
Each brick is illuminated with a candle that automatically lights up on the anniversary of the person's death. Construction work on the hall lasted two years and cost approximately NIS 99 million.
Over the next two months, visits to the hall will be restricted to bereaved families only, who will be invited to attend organized visits by Yad Labanim—an organization commemorating IDF fallen soldiers. Thereafter it will be made accessible to the general public.
The hall contains the names of all security personnel who died in the line of duty, from the first soldier Aharon Hershler, who was attacked by Arabs in Jerusalem in 1873, to the most recently-fallen soldiers.The names of the soldiers are engraved on the bricks in the same font and size, irrespective of rank, in chronological order, in order to preserve the value of equality in perpetuating the fallen soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet, the police and the security forces.
At the entrance to the hall there will be a "Ner Tamid" (a lamp that burns perpetually) and a flag pole with the Israeli flag. The official memorial ceremonies will be held in the heart of the hall, and guests of the state will be invited to lay a wreath. Every morning a military cantor will hold a memorial service for soldiers who died in the line of duty on that day.
In the center of the hall lies a huge bell made up of thousands of bricks produced by the manager of the Merkava tank and the Yarkam tank programs designed to reflect the spirit of the verse: "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks."
In addition, there will be artistic exhibits and interactive tools. A computerized system will enable the visitors to access information, pictures, and summarized biographies of the dead via touch screens.
Towards the end of the journey through the hall, visitors will be invited to share feelings and experiences, and write a few words in their memory. They will also be invited to light a virtual candle that will be incorporated into a special three-dimensional display.
Visits to the hall will be accompanied by music composed specifically for the site, and the entrance to the site will be adorned by a creation of the successful Israeli artist Michal Rovner, titled In Their Footsteps.
"The State of Israel has many national symbols of commemoration, such as the siren and the lowering of the flag to half mast, but there has yet to be a site that focuses on the personal dimension of the fallen," Aryeh Moalem, deputy director of the families and commemoration department at the Defense Ministry, told Ynet.
"Bereaved families wished to eternally commemorate their sons' memory and story… In addition, when senior Israeli officials visit countries abroad, they usually commence their visits by placing a flag on the tombstone of the anonymous soldier in that country. In the State of Israel, it was decided that no such tombstone will exist, and thus, the hall may be utilized for (that purpose), to enable foreign VIPs, who arrive on official visits, to pay respects to Israel's fallen soldiers," he said.
The director of the hall, Yair Ben-Shalom, added: "The hall provides an experience of connecting the person to himself, a tour of the history of a fallen battalion, the story of a town and its losses, the name of a fallen soldier he may have been familiar with and wanted to know more about. This is a hall of values and revival."
(Translated and edited by N. Elias)