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Israel: Bereaved families threaten to storm closed cemeteries on Memorial Day

The head of an organization representing relatives of fallen soldiers and terror victims has cautioned that bereaved families will not accept the shuttering of military cemeteries during Memorial Day next week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that the traditional commemoration events will take place on April 27-28 without crowds in light of the coronavirus pandemic, fearing a renewed outbreak if annual ceremonies are held as normal.

“Unfortunately, it is the first time since the country’s founding that military cemeteries will be empty [on Memorial Day],” Eli Ben Shem, chairman of Yad Labanim, wrote Sunday to Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and other senior officials.

“Following the directive by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett canceling the ceremonies and the order not to come to the military cemeteries on Memorial Day, we are receiving hundreds of messages from families who don’t accept it and are threatening to force their way in,” he said.

Ben Shem said some bereaved relatives had even threatened to commit suicide on their loved one’s grave.

“I am convinced we must do everything to prevent difficult images of this kind on Memorial Day, the hardest day of the year for the families,” he wrote, asking Netanyahu to intervene.

He said that a “widespread public campaign” was necessary to avoid confrontations between bereaved families and police.

The Defense Ministry has been preparing to perform all state ceremonies at cemeteries for mourners who will not be able to attend, Channel 12 reported last week.

A military representative, a Defense Ministry representative and an IDF rabbi will be present at each cemetery. They will recite the kaddish prayer in memory of every fallen soldier and place a flower and pennant on every grave.

The main ceremony at the Western Wall on the eve of Memorial Day will be limited to 20 participants, including Kohavi and President Reuven Rivlin, and will be broadcast live for the public.

At Mount Herzl’s Memorial Hall a soldier will light a candle for each of the fallen and the Kaddish prayer will be recited for their families.

Source: TOI Staff