An Israeli Memorial Day like no other

Bereaved families joined by thousands around the globe in emotional, unique ceremony with a “Declaration of Unity”

An audience of 3,100 stood for a filmed Declaration of Unity at the OneFamily Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism (Yom Hazikaron) event. Photo by Meir Pavlovsky/OneFamily.
An audience of 3,100 stood for a filmed Declaration of Unity at the OneFamily Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism (Yom Hazikaron) event. Photo by Meir Pavlovsky/OneFamily.

Israelis marked the start of an especially challenging Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism (Yom Hazikaron) at a powerful and emotional ceremony held in Jerusalem that focused on unity.

More than 3,000 people filled Jerusalem’s International Convention Center to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to the country. The evening focused on the bonds of brothers: brothers in arms, brothers in life, and brothers in healing. Families of fallen soldiers and victims of terror shared personal stories—each one heartbreaking—serving as a testament to Israel’s spirit of resilience and a reminder that these heroes will never be forgotten.

A dramatic “Declaration of Unity” was filmed onstage as the entire hall stood to recite the pledge in unison: “We call on the People of Israel and Jews from all corners of the world to remember: We are brothers! The blood of our fallen cries out from the ground. They fell alongside one another, religious, secular, left and right. We will rise up and live together … Am Yisrael Chai.”

Meitav (left) and Inbal Journo talk about their sister and daughter, Karin Journo, who was killed at the Nova festival. Photo by Meir Pavlovsky/OneFamily.

More than 600 soldiers and 700 citizens were killed on or since Oct. 7, making this the deadliest year for the country since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The OneFamily ceremony, co-sponsored by Mizrahi and the World Zionist Organization, addressed the impact this has had on the day, on the country—and on the entire Jewish world.

Shira Mark, who suffered tremendous personal loss, remembered her family members with an emotional tribute. Her father, Rabbi Miki Mark, was murdered in a 2016 terror attack that also severely injured her mother. Just three years later, her older brother Shlomi was killed in a car accident while on his way to work at the Prime Minister’s Office. Shira tragically lost her younger brother, Pedaya, a platoon commander with the Givati Brigade, who was killed in a rocket explosion in Gaza on Oct. 31 cousin, and her cousin, Elhanan Meir Kalmanson, who was killed on Oct. 8 while defending Kibbutz Be’eri.

“Dad, Shlomi, Elhanan and Pedaya, you’re gone, but your light continues. I know you fought for life, so how can’t I?” Shira said. “During Pedaya’s funeral, some camera was pointed at me, and I said, amongst the tears, ‘We have a love, and it will arise. We have a love, and it will win.’”

Joining her was Uri Ben-Harush, whose brother Shoham Moshe Ben-Harush died of wounds sustained in battle on Oct. 7. “You may be gone, but we remember. You showed us that even in the darkest time, you can find a spark of light.”

Meitav Journo lost her sister Karin, who was murdered at the Nova Festival. “Losing a sister feels like someone has taken a part of your heart and won’t ever give it back,” she said. Appearing alongside their mother, Inbal, Meitav continued, “Losing a sister is losing your parents, who will never be the same again. Losing my sister is losing myself.”

Minister of Knesset Idit Silman (left) joins OneFamily CEO Chantal Belzberg, OneFamily chairman Marc Belzberg and Minister of Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli at the program. Photo by Meir Pavlovsky/OneFamily.

Live musical performances by Yonatan Razel and the OneFamily Bereaved Fathers Choir gave melody and voice to the sorrow felt in the auditorium and throughout the country. Razel played songs for the fallen, including a moving rendition of Yossi Hershkovitz’s tune for Psalm 23. He performed it alongside Col. Golan Vach, who comes from a famous Israeli musical family and shared the story behind the tune, which Hershkovitz shared with him late one night while on guard duty in Gaza.

“Perhaps the most profound thing that I’ve learned in the last six or seven months is how pride and pain live together,” Mizrahi CEO Rabbi Doron Perez said in a video message. His son Daniel, a Division Commander in the 77th Battalion, fell in battle on Oct. 7, and his body remains held in Gaza. Just ten days after Daniel was declared missing, the Perez family married off another son, Yonatan, who was injured in battle. “I’ve come to see that we are part of this story of hope … the Jewish people will prevail. Am Yisrael Chai.

Yonatan Razel performs at One Family’s Yom HaZikaron ceremony. Photo by Meir Pavlovsky/OneFamily.

In a statement, Chantal Belzberg, CEO of OneFamily, said: “Bereaved families experience their own Yom Hazikaron each and every day. It is our moral responsibility to support them as they personally bear the price our people pay for having a Jewish state. We embrace these families and are with them, hand-in-hand, in a journey that will last a lifetime.”

Attendees included students from several seminaries from abroad, incoming president of World Mizrachi Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Knesset member Idit Silman, and Minister of Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli. The in-person ceremony was live-streamed with English subtitles, viewed live by thousands joining online around the world.

As of this Yom Hazikaron, a total of 30,134 Israelis have lost their lives to war and terror attacks since 1860. Yom Hazikaron ends on Monday evening.

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The World Zionist Organization is committed to promoting Zionism & the Zionist idea and the Zionist enterprise through Israel education as vital and positive elements of contemporary Jewish life, in accordance with the principles articulated in the Jerusalem Program. This manifesto is dedicated to instilling the centrality of Israel and Jerusalem its capital deep within Jewish consciousness, encouraging the return to Zion, fashioning an exemplary society in the Jewish state, expanding Zionist education including Hebrew language instruction, settling the land, and combating antisemitism.

OneFamily supports and empowers victims of terror and bereaved families so they can achieve emotional and financial independence, and successfully reintegrate into society. Together with volunteers and professional staff, the OneFamily Fund provides critical assistance to those impacted by terrorism. See: https://onefamilyfundus.org/.
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