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The Memorial Day gathering in Kiryat Shmona, like countless others across Israel in early May, begins in the morning at the local military cemetery. Everyone stands in silence as a siren blasts for two minutes. Wreaths are laid, speeches are made, and tears are shed.

Later, about 20 people, young and old, sit around the table in the main room of a public housing apartment in this city near the Lebanese border. They help themselves to pasta, shawarma, cakes, and coffee, and they remember German Rozhkov.

Rozhkov, a Ukrainian immigrant turned soldier, was killed 20 years ago, when he was 25. According to Israeli military authorities and press accounts, he tried to stop two gunmen shooting at motorists at the height of the second Palestinian uprising. Disguised in Israeli army uniforms, the shooters penetrated from Lebanon and opened fire on a main road. Rozhkov, passing by, engaged them in a 30-minute battle. Five Israeli civilians and Rozhkov were slain before the gunmen were killed, too. (The Palestinian Authority hasn’t publicly challenged this account and didn’t respond to multiple requests for...