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The stage is set for Memorial Day in Ramat HaKovesh, Israel

The sirens sounded at 8pm. Standing on a hotel balcony, I watched the city come to a halt. The few cars on the main street stopped, the drivers getting out to stand beside their vehicles. On the beachfront a teenager on his electric scooter slowed and dismounted. In Tel Aviv, and all of Israel, Memorial Day was starting.

The day when Israelis commemorate the dead of the wars since 1948, shortly after Holocaust Memorial Day, is followed immediately by the celebrations of Independence Day. But from the evening before Memorial Day the country goes silent. Shops shut, cafés and restaurants close, and for these minutes the whole country stands under the wail of the sirens to remember. As the sirens stop the drivers get back into their cars and the boy on the seafront gets back onto his scooter and glides off into the night.

***

The next morning the motorways are full of cars heading to cemeteries. The newspapers show the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the grave of his brother Yoni, killed at Entebbe. Now everybody is taking their turn. A dear friend, who crossed the Suez by tank in 1973, took me with him to his battalion memorial.

At the shell-marked Mandate era police station, now a museum, there is a wall with all the names of the dead of these battalions. Wreaths are laid by people who have seen each of Israel's wars, and one by an American widow of the Afghanistan war, her young son beside her.

After the formal ceremony the old comrades mingle. In the neighbouring woods there are separate memorials for each battalion. "Are you heading down to the memorial?" one asks another, as though it's no special matter. "Perhaps." But in the period that follows these old soldiers all find their way through the woods and finally my friend's is the busiest reunion group of them all.

They pull fallen twigs off the memorial. One takes photographs as they linger. Chinks of sunlight break through the trees, and it isn't a trick of the light that for a moment, as some are persuaded to recall their long-ago battles, these men seem not just united, but young again.

***

Benjamin Netanyahu's singing voice turns out to be quite good. As does that of Shimon Peres. I am in the latter's garden in Jerusalem for an Independence Day party.

The night before, from 8pm again, the country changed, this time from silence to celebration. Fireworks go off, children squirt each other with industrial-sized cans of foam, and young people drive into town in packed cars to break out onto the streets singing and dancing.

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hegel`s advocate
June 13th, 2014
9:06 PM
Young Douglas Murray is also writing great,informative anti-islamification articles over at New Statesman and the spectator. His friend Matthew Parris disagrees. But totally unconvincingly. Israel Is Real. Julie Burchill says it could do with being a bit bigger. Superb concision.

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