JERUSALEM, Israel - Israel came to a standstill as a two-minute siren wailed across the country to honor the memory of Israel’s fallen soldiers and terror victims on Thursday against the backdrop of new threats from Iran.
Speaking at the State Memorial Ceremony at Mt. Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Iran’s threat that it would continue its nuclear program.
“We will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue to fight those who seek to take our lives and we will thrust our roots even deeper into the soil of our homeland.”
The IDF said that 23,741 Israeli and Jewish soldiers and 3,150 terror victims have fallen since pre-state days in 1860.
CBN News asked Israelis in Jerusalem what they were thinking about when the siren was sounding.
“I was thinking about all the soldiers from the beginning of you know the State of Israel up until today who had to fight on the front lines and in the home front as well and the civilians, too,’ said Shai Yosipov, a former IDF combat medic. “Basically realizing again the price or the responsibility we have for living in this country to not always remember but to always know that there’s a sacrifice that needed to be made in order for us to be here today.”
“During the siren, I was praying for families who’ve lost so many including my own family and just praying that God should give them comfort from the pain,” said Sarah Rivka Yekutiel, who moved here from Boston many years ago.
“It’s a very emotional time for everyone, you know whether you’ve had family or not family involved. It’s very intense,” said Orital Saban, who moved here from Canada less than a year ago.
Just days before Memorial Day, four more Israelis were killed when terror groups launched some 700 rockets at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.
But despite the trouble and constant pressure, most Israelis had good things to say about their country.
“It’s the most amazing country in the world. I believe that redemption will come from here. I think God is as close as He is to the earth here in Israel and I think that we’re doing a great job despite everything,” said Yekutiel.
“That’s what I love about Israel that we never give up even if it doesn’t work the first time, we try, try again and I love it,” said Yosipov.
“I literally wake up every day and thank God that I found my way here in my late 60s,” said Joanne Doades.
“It is the most amazing place in the world and I’m from America where life is so easy and it’s not easy here but it’s good here. You live with meaning and purpose and people who care and a feeling of family and connection, there’s no place like it,” she added.
Just after sundown, Israelis will make the amazing leap from mourning their dead to celebrating Israel’s 71st Independence Day.