Yom Hazikaron – Israel’s Memorial Day

Israel has just marked the solemn occasion of Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance for fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terrorism. Yizkor (or “to remember”) is a prayer recited in the memory of the 25,578 fallen soldiers and terror victims. Twice during the holiday a siren is sounded throughout the country: once at 8 PM on the preceding night for 1 minute, and again the following morning at 11 AM for 2 minutes. While the sirens sound, Israeli citizens stop what they’re doing for a moment of silence, to pay their respects. This video shows drivers stopping and standing in respect on one of Israel’s major highways while the siren sounds.

The following account is from Hila Amsali, an Israeli from Rishon Lezion who joined an Israel Outdoors group as part of the “mifgash” (or encounter). All Taglit-Birthright Israel groups are joined by a small group of Israeli soldiers and students, who share in the experience for 5-10 days:

I traveled with [my] group to Mt. Herzl [Israel’s national cemetary].

I could see the eyes [of the American participants] moving around, trying to grasp the weird vision in front of them. After all, it’s one mountain, countless graves, some with names and some lacking names.

I told the group my side of the story:

As an Israeli (born and raised), as a former [Israel Defense Forces] soldier, I feel the need to unite with our fallen soldiers twice. Once, every time I visit this mountain. Second, every year on Yom Hakizaron. On those two occasions, I wear my uniform. I salute. I need to be as one with the people who made my being here possible. The people whose actions and sacrifices made them, the [Birthright] participants, have a country that can be called homeland, the holy land.

As for that mountain, it’s quite simple. More simple than what most people think. After all, we are a small country. So small that most of us know someone that is buried there – either through the army or through family stories. Personally, I knew one. Via stories, at least four.

[Israel’s] National Memorial Day is filled with all those stories. About brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives and children that were killed in wars, army operations, terror attacks, bus bombings, fallen rockets and random stone’s throw. All those lives lost just so we can have a place to call home.

That’s my story. As an Israeli.

Yom Hazikaron, one of the saddest days of the year in Israel, is immediately followed by Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, and one of the happiest occasions of the year filled with jubilation and celebration. This transition is meant to highlight the struggle and sacrifice that was made for the sake of freedom and independence, and the quick transition between the two very different occasions is no coincidence. We look forward to highlighting Yom Haatzamut shortly…