April 26 (UPI) -- The global COVID-19 pandemic has altered Israel's annual Memorial Day ceremonies as families are forced to visit their loved ones in staggered groups and other events move online.
Isreal's Health Ministry barred families from cemeteries on the holiday on Monday, instead urging them to visit the country's 53 military cemeteries in small groups in the preceding days to mitigate the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Coronavirus restrictions also bar travel between the cities of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haaztmaut. Police would also be stationed outside of the gates of the cemeteries although the government said force would not be used against any families seeking to enter.
The next day two ceremonies are held at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl national cemetery including one for fallen soldiers and another for victims of terrorism along with smaller events in other military cemeteries.
Nathan Landau, Israeli coordinator of the joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day said 20,000 people tuned in for online live streams of the event last year and COVID-19 lockdowns will likely increase online participation.
"While the coronavirus is making things more difficult and complicated, we also see this as an opportunity," said Landau. "Not everyone can attend a ceremony in Tel Aviv. But because everyone is on the Internet, we believe at this year we can reach new populations -- among Israelis, Palestinians and around the world."