On Yom HaZikaron Jews Celebrate Fallen Soldiers

By Israel Defense Forces (Remembering the Fallen) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Israel Defense Forces (Remembering the Fallen) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Yom HaZikaron is a memorial day for fallen Israeli soldiers.

Yom HaZikaron is a Memorial Day for fallen Israeli soldiers.[/tweetit] It comes on the eve of the nation’s Independence Day called Yom Ha’azmaut, usually falling in the first week of May annually. The Jewish community does not regard Yom Hazikaron as a religious milestone but rather as a civic duty made into law in 1963. The day is only commemorated by the Zionist Haredi Jews in Israel, though it is respected by the non-Zionist Jews and Arab sects within the country.

Jews Celebrate Fallen Soldiers -Yom HaZikaron.[/tweetthis]

In the past, Israel acknowledged the sacrifice of its soldiers as part of its Independence Day celebrations. However, this event was hard for the families of the soldiers which were forced to grieve as all other people in the country celebrated its sovereignty. A petition from these loved ones thus led to the announcement of the separate holiday, the Memorial Day.

Memorial Day was initially observed in honor of military personnel who gave up their lives in the fight for independence. Gradually, it came to incorporate even those who had passed on later in the line of duty. After the second Intifada, Yom Hazikaron encompassed even the memorial of security workers killed while protecting civilians during terrorist attacks as well as the casualties of Israel’s political violence and Palestinian attacks.

The Yom Hazikaron observance lasts for twenty-four hours, from one sunset to the next. It is never kept on a Friday or Saturday night for that would be a violation of the Sabbat, but postponed if it falls at such a time. The mood of Yom Hazikaron is somber, a direct contrast to that of the Independence Day.

During Yom Hazikaron, two sirens are sounded in all parts of Israel. The first marks the beginning of the Memorial Day at 8 p.m. the first evening. When this siren is heard in the country, all activities cease. The whole nation takes a moment of silence to reflect on the sacrifice of the men and women who died for it. The Yizkor (memorial prayer) and the El Maleh Rachamim prayer for defense forces can be said personally during this time. After that siren and periodical silence, all entertainment centers are shut down as the law demands. Most people close their businesses though this move is not a necessity.

At 11 a.m. the following morning, the second siren sounds. The siren indicates to the members of the public that they can proceed with their Yom Hazikaron services for the day. In Israeli high schools students in white and blue garments gather in memorial corners to remember alumni who gave their lives for Israel. Soldiers in full military dress accompany individuals whose loved ones died in the line of duty to cemeteries where fallen military personnel rest, such as the Mt. Herzl Cemetery. Flags are raised to half-mast, and solemn ceremonies are conducted with special readings and Kaddish (mourning memorial prayers).

On that day all broadcasting media play songs and poems that convey the mood of loss. Names of the fallen appear on television channels throughout the day, reminding the people of those they lost in wars.

The day continues in its somber tone and is followed by the more celebratory Yom Ha’azmaut. These days are grouped together to remind the Israel people that there is always good in the worst situations, and to remind them that the sacrifice of lives was worth the eventual cost, freedom.


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