Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers, is April 14-15, 2013. The following day, April 15-16, is Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. The days are always linked together in recognition of the fact that Israel would not, and could not, have achieved independence without the soldiers who sacrificed their lives.
Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day) was originally established to remember those who fell in the many wars that Israel has had to endure at the hands of the Arabs. Now it not only includes those in the IDF (Israel’s Defense Forces), but also the people who have fallen victim to terrorists.
Yom Hazikaron is a somber day. All places of entertainment are closed. Twice during the day, at the sound of a siren throughout the country, everything—and everyone— stops completely for two minutes to remember and honor the soldiers.
Remembering those who have sacrificed to help create and maintain the state of Israel is an important tradition, just as we remember the act of creation, the Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the laws at Mount Sinai and other events in our history as a people. The Jewish people draw strength from our collective history and memory.
In Israel, this day includes many national ceremonies for fallen soldiers in which senior public officials and military officers are present. The day opens the preceding evening with a one-minute siren during which most Israelis stand in silence, commemorating the fallen and showing respect. Many say prayers for the fallen soldiers. The official ceremony to mark the opening of the day takes place at the Western Wall, at which time the flag of Israel is lowered to half mast.
A two-minute siren is heard the following morning which marks the opening of the official memorial ceremonies and private remembrance gathering which are held at each cemetery where soldiers are buried. The day officially draws to a close in the official ceremony of Israel Independence Day on Mount Herzl, when the flag of Israel is returned to full mast.
The nation’s President speaks and soldiers parade with flags from their branch of service. Yom Ha’atzmaut has begun. In cities and towns there is dancing and singing, and people enjoying picnics, hikes, and free public entertainment. Schools are closed to mark the celebration.