In the US, we celebrate Memorial Day with sales and barbeques, but Israeli Memorial Day, or Yom HaZikaron, is very different!
This year, it will begin at sundown on Sunday, April 30th with a siren at 8pm (in Israel), during which the Israelis stop absolutely all activity, including driving, working on construction, etc. Yom HaZikaron was declared by the Knesset as the day to remember those whose lives were lost while in active duty in Israel’s military forces since 1860. As of May 2016, 23,447 soldiers have been killed in combat.
After this solemn day, the next day is Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, when it’s time to party! This year will mark 69 years since Israel has been declared an independent state in May 1948. Festivities include– ceremonial lighting of the 12 torches – one for each of the Tribes of Israel, fireworks, barbecues, singing and dancing in the streets, and Israeli flags everywhere.
Yom HaZikaron is a very personal holiday for the Israelis, since as a small country where everyone serves in the Israel Defense Forces, most Israelis have a friend or a relative who has been killed during military service. While the stark contrast of mourning to dancing in one day is difficult for most people celebrating, the timing of the two holidays was designed as a reminder of the great price that is being paid for the state’s independence.
Israel Center of the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill will be holding a Yom HaZikaron commemoration on April 30th and Yom HaAtzmaut festival on May 7th.
To read more about these holidays, click here.