Government Not Budging on Closing Cemeteries Memorial Day

Visiting loved ones at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Yerushalayim, Wednesday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Despite public pressure, the Israeli government has so far not yielded on its decision to close cemeteries on Memorial Day next week, a time when large numbers of people go to pay their respects to the country’s fallen soldiers.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ issued a statement on Wednesday night saying that this year’s Memorial Day observance would have to be “different” due to the danger of spreading coronavirus.

Each year, some million and a half Israelis visit the nation’s 52 military cemeteries, he noted, but this year “we cannot allow ourselves such crowds, which will endanger everyone who goes there.” He called on the bereaved families to stay home.

Earlier in the day, however, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that while roads to the cemeteries would be closed off, bereaved families would not be physically prevented from entering if they chose to do so.

Because of the restrictions, “we expect that people won’t come,” he said, but “if a bereaved father walks to the cemetery he will be allowed in.

“If hundreds come, it’s still different from millions coming. No one will use force against bereaved families,” he was quoted in the media as saying.

Bennett urged them to use the days before Memorial Day to come and visit their loved ones while keeping to regulations.

He also mentioned that the option to postpone Memorial Day to the fall was discussed, but it was decided against because it was impossible to predict when it would be safe to have a normal observance.

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