'Meaning of independence is the ability to defend yourself'
At 8 p.m. Tuesday night, a one-minute siren will sound throughout Israel to mark the start of Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism. A total of 23,320 Israelis have fallen in battle or been killed in terrorist attacks since 1860, when Jews first moved outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City.JPost Editorial: Unique remembrance
In the past year, 116 Israeli soldiers were added to the list of the fallen, including 67 who were killed in Operation Protective Edge last summer and 35 disabled IDF veterans.
There are 553 Israeli soldiers whose places of burial are unknown, including most recently Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, whose body was seized by Hamas last July.
On Tuesday night, the traditional Memorial Day opening ceremony will be held at the Western Wall, with President Reuven Rivlin and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot in attendance.
On Wednesday, around 1.5 million Israelis are expected to visit military cemeteries across the country, from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Eilat in the south. At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, a two-minute siren will sound throughout the country.
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Of course, the day was set aside to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that the world’s only Jewish state continues to thrive and to comfort those whose loved ones are no longer with us.
But Remembrance Day is also a time of introspection.
Defense of Jewish sovereignty in Israel is a two-pronged challenge. One aspect consists of the physical protection of the Jewish people from its many enemies. Jewish power must be brandished through a strong army that is well-equipped with the most advanced weaponry. Maintaining a technological edge over the nations that inhibit the region is essential to deterrence.
Even mutually assured destruction – that element in the balance of powers that prevented a nuclear Holocaust during the long years of the Cold War – might not deter religious fanatics like the apocalyptic Shi’ite mullahs presently running Iran. But in general, it is safe to assume that as long as Israel’s enemies are cognizant of Israel’s unparalleled military advantage, they will refrain from aggression.
However, keeping a technical advantage over neighboring nations and terrorist organizations is not enough, and is ultimately tied to more fundamental aspects of Israeli society. Israel’s astounding technical innovation cannot be divorced from Israel’s unique character.