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Friday Feature

Remembering Israel's Fallen

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10 May 2019
Friday Feature

This week, Israelis celebrated their 71st year of independence, but only after paying tribute to the country’s fallen soldiers and terror victims. The sudden shift from the solemnity of Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day) to the joy of Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day) is dramatic, but it serves to remind the Israeli public of the heavy price paid for their freedom and national sovereignty.

Remembrance Day is always accompanied by the release of an updated list of Israel’s fallen. As of May 7, 2019, there have been a total of 26,891 men, women and children killed while defending the country (23,741) or in terrorist attacks (3,150). Over the past year, 96 new names were added to the roll of IDF soldiers and police who fell in duty, while the list of civilian terror victims grew by 13, including four people who died in the two-day rocket barrage from Gaza last weekend.

Not all of these deaths were committed by Arab foes. For example, 1,673 casualties are attributed to the British naval blockade of Mandatory Palestine, while another 171 uniformed soldiers have died in accidents during training exercises and other non-military activities. The total also includes Israeli diplomats killed while serving abroad, as well as foreign nationals killed in terror attacks targeting Israelis.

Most people would date the Arab-Israeli conflict back to the Arab riots and unrest in 1920-21. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points specifically to the Arab mob which attacked the Jewish immigration office and hostel in the port of Old Jaffa on May 1, 1921 in a bid to stop more Jews from entering the land.

However, the list of fallen remembered on Yom Hazikaron begins counting in 1860, when a rabbi in the Old City of Jerusalem was stabbed by an Arab on his way to morning prayers not long after the first Jewish neighborhood, Mishkenot Shaananim, was established outside the walls of the city due to overcrowding.

A review of the list of combat and terror victims also brings out the diversity of Israeli society and the Israeli military. Although non-Jews are generally allowed exemptions from mandatory military service, there are many Druze, Bedouin and now Arab Christians who volunteer for the IDF.

The Druze community has lost 421 of its members in the Arab-Israeli conflict, including several Druze police officers killed in recent years in terrorist attacks on the Temple Mount and at a Har Nof synagogue in Jerusalem. [Note: The ICEJ has provided social assistance to the surviving wives and children of these fallen Druze policemen.]

There also have been 18 Arabic-speaking Christian soldiers and policemen who have fallen while defending the State of Israel. This year, we would like to recognize them by name:

Private Elias Alimi
Sergeant Roje Salame
Corporal Fatan Layous
Private Raik Joubran
Chief Inspector Naima Fares
Advanced Staff Sergeant Major Eduard Fran
Sergeant Joseph Khoury
Corporal Salim Botros
Private Khallil Elias
Constable George Hadad
Staff Sergeant Khallil Marina
Corporal Riad Samara
Sergeant Major Ziad Elias
Staff Sergeant Adham Sliman
Staff Sergeant Hannah Aoude
Advanced Staff Sergeant Major Elias Artul
Sergeant Major Eli Abu-Gahnem
Constable Eduard Kanbura
(List and image courtesy of the Jerusalem Initiative) 

There has been an increase in the number of Arab Christians volunteering for the IDF in recent years. This week, i24 News featured a special report on Yoseph Haddad, a Christian Arab from Nazareth who was seriously wounded while fighting with the IDF’s Golani Brigade in the heated battle with Hizbullah in Bint Jbeil in the Second Lebanon War of 2006. Haddad has since launched a campaign to encourage closer Arab integration into Israeli society. View his story here!


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