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At Bnei Brak Memorial Day Ceremony, Israeli Society Unites to Commemorate the Fallen

Hundreds of Israelis from across the political and religious spectrum gathered to mourn the 413 city residents who have been killed in military service or acts of terror throughout the country’s history | Israel marked its first Memorial Day since the Oct. 7 attacks and subsequent war

אל מלא רחמים בטקס יום הזיכרון בבני ברק (צילום: ניצן צבי כהן)
A screen displays the text of 'El Malei Rachamim,' a Jewish prayer for the dead, at the Memorial Day ceremony in Bnei Brak (Photo: Nizzan Zvi Cohen)
By Nizzan Zvi Cohen

Hundreds gathered this Sunday evening in Bnei Brak’s Memorial Park to mark the beginning of Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), Israel’s first since the devastating attacks of October 7 and the beginning of the subsequent, ongoing war against Hamas. The crowd in the predominantly Haredi city, which included bereaved families, first responders, civilian volunteers, seminary students and locals from a wide array of political and religious affiliations, had gathered to commemorate the 413 residents of the city who have been killed in military service or terror attacks throughout Israel’s history.

Chani, a 40-year-old native of Bnei Brak, attended the ceremony with her son and daughter who study in a seminary and a Torah academy, respectively.

"It happens right behind our house, and we make a point of coming every year. Our children are growing up in the face of war just like everyone else, and I feel that we are all brothers, all of the tribes. So it's important for us to experience each other's emotions," she said. "I also educate my children from this point of view, to be both Haredi and Israeli. We don't live in a vacuum. Lack of communication leads to conflict and extremism. Everyone has to choose their own path, but they need to understand that all of these paths intersect. That's how I was raised, and that's how I'm raising my children too."

The event took place in the city’s Memorial Park, next to a monument to the fallen on Rabbi Maimon Street. The park gradually filled with a mixture of populations: men with and without kippot, members of the Religious-Zionist Bnei Akiva movement, Hasidic Jews with long peyot. During the event, a seminary student whispered to her friend and reminded her that "during the national anthem you need to stand to show respect."

Participants at the Memorial Day ceremony in Bnei Brak. "Despite the great sorrow that has befallen us, our spirit is resilient" (Photo: Nizzan Zvi Cohen)
Participants at the Memorial Day ceremony in Bnei Brak. "Despite the great sorrow that has befallen us, our spirit is resilient" (Photo: Nizzan Zvi Cohen)

Standing out in the crowd were members of the United Hatzalah, Magen David Adom, and ZAKA Tel Aviv, whose difficult work in the field of emergency response was also commemorated at the ceremony. Since October 7th, members of these services have faced the complex task of identifying the victims of the massacre and preserving their dignity throughout the burial process.

Also present was Amnon Mahala, a longtime resident of the city and the grandfather of Sergeant Amichay Shimon Rubin, who fought against terrorists who breached the outpost where he served on October 7th. He continued to fight even after being injured, but eventually succumbed to his wounds.

Rubin’s family decided to donate his organs, saving the lives of five people. "Our soldiers showed tremendous courage, they stood firm at their posts," said Mahala. "Despite the great sorrow that has befallen us, our spirit is resilient, and we believe in the Holy One, and pray every day: 'The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.'"

Rabbi Hanoch Zeibert, the mayor of Bnei Brak, recognized the selflessness of those who have served (Photo: Nizzan Zvi Cohen)
Rabbi Hanoch Zeibert, the mayor of Bnei Brak, recognized the selflessness of those who have served (Photo: Nizzan Zvi Cohen)

"Hamas terrorists attacked women and men, children and babies. They made no distinction based on ideology, between right and left, between religious and secular," said Rabbi Hanoch Zeibert, mayor of Bnei Brak. "The fact that the people of Israel do not stand united is what allows them to harm us. If we stand together, it will be impossible to harm us. Therefore, it is our duty to come together as one."

Quoting a prayer from the Passover haggadah, Zeibert added that "'The Holy One saves us from their hands' thanks to the selflessness of our finest, who sacrifice their lives for the sake of the people of Israel in the land of Israel. They are the true defenders, with their bodies, souls, and lives, of our holy land. The people of Israel mourn the loss of their finest who were slaughtered and killed, including 563 soldiers and over 9,000 war-wounded who were evacuated to hospitals. These numbers join the unfathomable numbers of fallen soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces, including 413 fallen soldiers from our city who were killed in various battles defending the nation and homeland. Young men and women, soldiers whose futures were before them and in one moment, everything was extinguished, everything disappeared. Each and every one is an entire world.

"The entire people of Israel shares the pain of the 132 hostages. Elderly survivors of the Holocaust and infants taken from their homes and held under harsh conditions of captivity. Young female soldiers under the cursed hands of Hamas terrorists. We all pray to the Holy One that they return swiftly to their homes in peace. Our prayer to G-d in heaven is to send success to the soldiers, that they return in peace, and complete healing to the wounded, and swiftly return the hostages to their homes, and send comfort to the bereaved families, and unite us all, as one, with one Torah in one land. And may we merit to unite until the complete redemption soon in our days, Amen."

This article was translated from Hebrew by Tzivia Gross and Marina Levy.

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