The State of Israel began a somber Memorial Day at sundown Sunday night with a one-minute nationwide siren at 8 PM that ushered in a nationally-televised memorial service at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City.
President Shimon Peres and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Ganz were the featured speakers.
The audience was comprised mostly of the loved ones of the fallen.
The wall is a remnant of the Second Temple destroyed by Roman legionnaires in 70 A.D.
During the following 24 hour period most restaurants and places of entertainment are closed. Israeli television and radio stations will broadcast mostly solemn music and programming, including documentaries about the pre-state underground fighters, Israel Defense Forces soldiers, and intelligence operatives who died for their country. Civilians who lost their lives at the hands of terrorists are also remembered.
On Monday at 11 AM a second siren will blast for two minutes commencing a memorial ceremony at the main military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. Over a million and a half Israelis are expected to pay their respects at military cemeteries across the country.
Israeli newspapers devoted the front pages of their Sunday editions to Memorial Day coverage.
Since the birth of the founder of modern political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, in 1860, some 23,169 fighters have fallen in creating and defending the Jewish state.
The country makes an abrupt transition from mourning to celebration at sundown on Monday with 24 hours of festivities marking 66 years of independence.
The highlights include the awarding of the annual Israel prizes and a youth bible contest.
On the eve of Independence Day, Israel's bureau of statistics announced that the country now has 8.2 million residents of whom 75 percent, or 6.1 million, are Jewish and 21 percent, or 1.7 million are Arabs.
This figure does not include the Palestinian Arab population in the West Bank, also known as Judea and Samaria, whose numbers are in dispute. Palestinian officials absurdly claim 2.72 http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Palestinian-population-in-W-Bank-Gaza-about-45-million-319569 million Arabs live in the disputed territory while some Israelis put the number as low http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.532703 as 1 million.