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Israelis mark their independence amid tensions with Palestinians

JERUSALEM (BP)–Traffic and all other activity came to a standstill for two minutes on April 16 as Israelis paused to honor the memory of their dead, CNSNews.com’s Jerusalem bureau reported.

Since the beginning of Zionist settlement activities in the Holy Land in 1860, some 21,182 soldiers and security personnel have been killed in wars and terror attacks.

In addition, another 3,300 civilians have been killed in terror attacks since the 1920s. Nearly 10 percent of those, 319 civilians, have been killed since October 2000, according to Israel’s National Insurance Institute.

Jews have lived in the Holy Land continuously since biblical times. Israel became a nation in 1948, but the Zionist movement began in the 1800s with the aim of establishing a national Jewish homeland in the ancient land of Israel. Jewish philanthropists and organizations purchased properties from local landowners and established Jewish neighborhoods and farming communities.

Israeli journalist Lily Galili wrote in Tel Aviv’s Ha’aretz newspaper that this year’s Memorial Day is different from all the others.

“Remembrance days, by definition, link up with the past; this remembrance day links up with the future,” Galili wrote.

“The loss of the past, the pain of the present and the fear of the future have bonded into an oppressiveness that separated this ceremony from all its predecessors,” she wrote of the opening ceremony at the Western Wall.

Israeli police and security forces have been at peak alert since Memorial Day ceremonies opened the evening of April 15. They will remain on high alert to prevent terror through April 17, when Israel celebrates its Independence Day.

Israel’s arrest of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti on April 15 has heightened fears that his organization will try to carry out revenge kidnappings of soldiers.

Many cities canceled their public gatherings or moved them inside out of fear of terrorist attacks. Others felt they had to cancel their celebrations out of respect for those who are grieving. Still others, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, decided to press ahead with their plans as a statement of determination in the face of terrorism.

Israelis usually celebrate Independence Day with picnics and trips to military museums and bases, but this year many more people were expected to stay home.
Stahl is the Jerusalem bureau chief with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Julie Stahl