From THE JERUSALEM POST, 27 April, 2009:
...On Monday night, Israel paused to mourn its fallen soldiers, as the nation marked Remembrance Day and honored the memory of those who lost their lives in defense of the state.
...The official state ceremony marking the start of Israel's Memorial Day began immediately after the siren at Jerusalem's Western Wall Plaza, in the presence of President Shimon Peres, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, and bereaved families.
"They say the pain dissolves as times moves on, as years pass. And I know it isn't so: Pain just becomes sharper as the days and years go by," Peres said at the start of the ceremony. "You see a soldier in IDF uniform in the street and your eyes well up.
..."For 61 years we have been burying our children and the end is still not on our horizon," Peres said. "Again and again the boys are called to protect their fathers and mothers; again and again the commanders lead their troops and fall in battle, because the best of our men always go down first."
Although the country has faced its share of threats, Peres predicted even more to come, and insisted that Israel wanted peace but was ready for war. "This year, too, the threat to our existence persists, and yet, we do not run away from the battlefield. We do not want war, but if it is forced upon us, I suggest to our enemies and friends as one, to be on the right side, our side, the side that has always won and will always win," he said.
"The fallen have left behind them a strong and assured country," Peres concluded.
...A two-minute memorial siren will also sound at 11 a.m. Tuesday, followed by official ceremonies at 43 military cemeteries.
The Defense Ministry said that since 1860, when the first Jewish settlers began establishing Jewish neighborhoods outside the Jerusalem city walls, 22,570 men and women have been killed in defense of the Land of Israel.
In the past year, 133 soldiers and security personnel died, a figure that includes non-combat deaths.
...Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urged the country to maintain the unity it feels during Remembrance Day every day of the year.
"The unity that we feel during this day is natural and clear," Netanyahu said at a ceremony at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. "But I must say especially on this day of unity, that this [must continue] every day of the year.
"It is this unity which helps us through times of despair and difficulties, and it is this which will also help us tomorrow to face great challenges," he continued. "Our existence as a people and a nation depends on this unity."...
Etgar Lefkovitz and Yaakov Katz contributed to this story.