Photo Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90
Soldiers bow their heads during the Yom Hazikaron ceremony at the Kotel. April 17, 2018

Religious expression must be given to members of the various non-Jewish religions during the religious part of the official ceremony on HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for the IDF fallen, an organization seeking to boost minority inclusiveness in Israeli society is saying.

The Together – Vouch for Each Other organization on Tuesday submitted a letter to the Ministry of Defense calling for religious equality in the official ceremony that opens the Memorial Day events, which takes place at the Western Wall plaza and commences the days somber ceremonies.

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The association requests that during the religious part of the ceremony, which includes the participation of rabbis and the reading of traditional Jewish prayers and chapters from the Bible, dignitaries from other religions will also be invited to recite a short prayer in memory of the IDF fallen from their religion.

Together – Vouch for Each Other was founded in 2018 by a group of young Israeli Arabs – Christians, Muslims, Bedouin and Druze, who felt determined to bring about change in the Israeli-Arab sector and adopt a positive direction vis-à-vis Israeli society and the country.

The organization in 2019 held the first-ever Holocaust remembrance event for Arabs, in Arabic.

The organization noted that over the years, hundreds of Muslim and Druze IDF soldiers have fallen on the defense of the state, and the current conduct of the ceremony is “a violation of the principle of equality, which is the lifeblood of democracy.”

In addition, the request states that the benefits of the move are a “strengthening of the consciousness and a sense of belonging to all non-Jewish soldiers and a clear statement that the country values ​​those soldiers and their families who chose to link their fate with the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

Yosef Haddad, CEO of the organization and an Arab Israeli who served in the IDF’s Golani Brigade and was injured in action, stated that “I think it is appropriate that in the official and state ceremony on Yom HaZikaron, all those from all different religions be honored.”

“We fight together shoulder to shoulder for the state, and every IDF soldier who falls is equal, no matter his rank, position or religion. It is fitting that in the official ceremony on Memorial Day, members of different religions will feel such a sense of equality and belonging. This is a small step of updating procedures that can lead to a large and significant change in the sense of belonging and integration of minorities into Israeli society,” he explained.

Adv. Idan Abohav, the organization’s attorney, emphasized that the petition’s objective is “not to reduce the intensity of the Jewish ceremony, but precisely because of its intensity, splendor and dignity, families of the non-Jews who fell in battle are also asking that their sons receive an equal religious mention.”

“Their sons stood shoulder to shoulder with Jews in battle and now they are asking that their religious representatives stand shoulder to shoulder with Jews in this all-important ceremony,” he explained.

Beyond the religious issue, “there is a clear statement here for all members of the minorities that the State of Israel respects those who fight for it, and we believe that this move will lead to an increase in the number of conscripts from these minorities to the IDF,” he added.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.