The number of officially recognized bereaved families in Israel in 2014 is 17,038. They include 2,141 orphans and 4,966 widows whose loved ones fell in the service of the IDF and security establishment.
The Department for Families and Memorialization at the Defense Ministry, which is in charge of Memorial Day events, expected more than a million and a half people to be at the military cemeteries across the country on Memorial Day.
The one-minute siren sounded all over the country at 8:00 p.m. and marked the beginning of Memorial Day. Immediately after the siren, the memory ceremonies began.
A poem that is often recited at the ceremonies is The Silver Platter (“Magash Hakesef”), written by Natan Alterman in 1947, following a statement by Israel’s would-be first president, that the state would not be handed to the Jews on a silver platter. The following is a translated version of the poem.
The Silver Platter
The Earth grows still. The lurid sky slowly pales
Over smoking borders.
Heartsick, but still living, a people stand by
To greet the uniqueness Of the miracle.
Readied, they wait beneath the moon.
Wrapped in awesome joy, before the light.
Then, soon, a girl and boy step forward,
And slowly walk before the waiting nation.
In work garb and heavy-shod
They climb in stillness.
Wearing yet the dress of battle, the grime
Of aching day and fire-filled night
Unwashed, weary unto death, not knowing rest,
But wearing youth like dewdrops in their hair.
Silently the two approach and stand.
Are they of the quick or of the dead?
Through wondering tears, the people stare.
“Who are you, the silent two?”
And they reply: “We are the silver platter
Upon which the Jewish State was served to you.”
And speaking, fall in shadow at the nation’s feet.
Let the rest in Israel’s chronicles be told.
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