Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day for fallen soldiers, began yesterday evening, and tonight gives way to Independence Day. Among those mourned are numerous members of non-Jewish groups. Hillel Kuttler writes:
Israel’s Defense Ministry counts 24,213 people as military fatalities (including those serving as police officers and prison guards) and victims of terrorist attacks, dating to before the state’s founding 75 years ago. My interviews this month with representatives of several minority groups reveal that the number includes 427 Druze, 221 Bedouins, 27 Christians, and approximately ten Circassians.
In a country replete with memorials to people killed protecting Israel, those communities’ losses are highlighted to varied degrees. The Druze complex in the Carmel mountains near Haifa, which includes a pre-army training center and an amphitheater on whose stage stands a memorial wall with the engraved names, is state-sponsored. So is a facility in the Jezreel Valley honoring the Bedouins; both sites host Yom Hazikaron ceremonies. The Circassian Heritage Center, in the village of Kfar Kamma, west of Tiberias, is privately funded. Jawdat Salameh, a Catholic, said he hopes to establish a memorial in the Galilee commemorating fallen Christian Israelis.
Since the combat death of his son in 1969, the ninety-five-year-old Druze leader Amal Nasser el-Din has been organizing efforts to memorialize these heroic Israelis. A former Knesset member, el-Din is scheduled to receive the Israel Prize, the country’s highest civilian honor, tomorrow. El-Din’s grandson was killed fighting in Gaza in 2008:
At the family’s mourning tent in 2008, someone asked Nasser el-Din whether he felt angry at Israel for the losses in action of his son and grandson. (Another son, Saleh, who likewise served in the Israel Defense Forces, was abducted as a civilian in 1995 by Hamas terrorists. He was never heard from again and is presumed dead.)
“To attain a strong, independent state, you must sacrifice,” el-Din [responded]. “And if I have to, I’ll sacrifice another son.”