In Memorial to War Dead, Israel Avoids Addressing Its Conflicts

Avoiding any hierarchy of prestige or loss, privates take their place alongside generals in addition to national heroes. No battles are deemed more or less important than others.

“Once we introduced the concept of unity in addition to equality, that will solved all the problems in addition to prevented the arguments,” said Aryeh Muallem, deputy director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defense in addition to head of its Bereaved Families, Commemoration in addition to Heritage department.

Preserving morale is actually considered critical in a smaller country where most 18-year-olds are drafted for years of compulsory military service. Last Memorial Day, about 1.5 million Israelis, or roughly one-sixth of the population, visited military cemeteries around the country.

yet Israelis cannot even agree on what to call some hostilities, like Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which is actually criticized by many here as an unjustified “war of choice.” Officially called Operation Peace for Galilee, that will is actually usually referred to as the First Lebanon War.


The National Memorial Hall for Israel’s Fallen is actually on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

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Mr. Muallem said the memorial was the outcome of a long dialogue with representatives of bereaved families. They presented the state having a challenge, wanting their dead to be remembered individually, on the day they had fallen.

So each inscribed brick carries a light beside that will, which is actually illuminated on the personal anniversary. At 11 a.m. every day, a brief remembrance ceremony is actually held for those killed on that will date, as their names in addition to images appear on digital screens mounted on 12 pillars. The screens, in addition to a smartphone app, provide more information about the dead.

The wall begins with rows upon rows of blank white bricks, waiting ominously for more names; the design imposes no limit. The first names a visitor sees are the most recent fatalities, in addition to then the wall spirals back to the 1870s, commemorating the earliest casualties of the Zionist struggle in addition to the soldiers of Zionist militias who fought in addition to died before independence.

“We decided to begin via the end, with what most speaks to us today,” said Michal Kimmel-Eshkolot of Kimmel Eshkolot Architects, which designed the monument. The inscribed bricks are no higher than about six feet via the floor, she said during a recent tour of the site, “so a mother can reach up in addition to touch the name.”

Etan Kimmel, the chief architect of the project, wrote inside the brochure that will the challenge had been to create a space “in a way that will touches everyone, yet without imposing a uniform interpretation.”


Soldiers in addition to visitors stood in silent respect during a moment commemorating the death of a soldier. Each soldier is actually to be honored on the date of his or her death, in addition to not only on Israel’s Memorial Day.

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that will is actually at least partly because the issue of war dead still stirs painful debate in Israel.

When that will was announced last month that will Miriam Peretz, who lost two sons in combat in addition to who then dedicated herself to Zionist education, was to be awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement, another bereaved mother, Nomi Miller, criticized the choice as a cynical glorification of suffering.

“We, the mothers, are not worthy of any prize,” she wrote in an impassioned Facebook post that will elicited thousands of sympathetic reactions. “Our sons’ lives ended forever because our country continues to choose to live by the sword. Fight for peace.”

Before the Memorial Hall, most of Israel’s fallen had been commemorated in museums or monuments established by veterans of particular battles or military corps, or in private memorials scattered around the country. yet about 3,000 soldiers were not memorialized anywhere.

The idea for a national monument goes back to 1949, when Israel’s leadership proposed erecting a tomb of the unknown soldier. yet the location kept changing, in addition to bereaved relatives had no interest inside the idea, arguing that will their loved ones were not anonymous, according to Prof. Maoz Azaryahu, director of the Herzl Institute for the Study of Zionism at the University of Haifa, Israel.

“When I go back, the whole story of commemoration here in Israel is actually about names,” Professor Azaryahu said. inside the brand-new hall, “metaphorically, the bricks — the names — are the building material of the whole structure.”


An art installation with moving images made by Michal Rovner showed scenes via different wars in which Israel has fought.

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Mount Herzl became the focal point of Israeli memory, with its military cemetery in addition to tombs of the founding fathers.

yet the idea for a collective monument was quietly dropped until the 1970s, when a plan was developed to build a museum of war in addition to military heritage in addition to a memorial complex on Mount Eitan, outside Jerusalem.

Committees sat. Architects planned. Large amounts of money were invested. Historians, experts in addition to intellectuals filled files with recommendations.

“The brand-new left wanted that will to begin in 1948,” said Udi Lebel, a professor of sociology at Ariel University inside the West Bank in addition to at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. “Others wanted that will to begin with the Bible in addition to Jericho.”

There were arguments about how to present the consequences of the 1967 war, with some viewing the newly occupied territories as a card for peace negotiations in addition to others as the liberation of Greater Israel. Some wanted the Mount Eitan project to lift morale in addition to encourage service. Others worried about presenting Israel as a militaristic, Sparta-like state.

The debates went on until the 1990s. By then, Israel was signing peace accords with the Palestinians in addition to a treaty with Jordan, in addition to many felt that will was not the time to build a war museum.

The push for a memorial resumed inside the following decade, finally leading to construction.

“What went up inside the end is actually a place with one function only — to give the names of the fallen,” said Professor Lebel, who specializes in collective memory in addition to the politics of bereavement, adding that will even one sentence about how they died could be cause for argument.

“that will reflects Israel,” he said. “The only consensus there can be here is actually empathy for the families in addition to remembering the victims. There is actually no consensus over the past in addition to we are still living the conflict.”

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