Monday, May 9, 2011

Yom HaZikaron - Memorial Day



Every year Yom HaZikaron takes places on the fourth of Iyar, which this year is today, May 9, 2011. Also known as Israel Memorial Day (a different day than the Holocaust Memorial Day that took place last week), Yom HaZikaron is a somber holiday which strikes me in great contrast to the celebratory mood that I am accustomed to in the United States for our own Memorial Day holiday.  In Israel, Yom HaZikaron is a time to  remember all those who lost their lives in struggle for Israeli independence including the soldiers who have died while serving in Israel's armed forces and the victims of the country's unfortunate history of terrorist acts.

Soldiers stand in salute during the 11:00 a.m. moment of silence
Honoring the fallen in a moment of silence
Soldiers taking the honorary moments of silence
Visiting a grave of a fallen soldier
The somber mood can be felt from the moment the holiday begins at sundown on the first day until sundown the next day when all places of entertainment are closed. Radio and television stations devote air time to patriotic music or programs honoring fallen soldiers. Many schools have a special memorial ceremony. At the Western Wall, the Israeli flag is lowered to half-mast next to a life-size memorial candle.





Over at Safra Square, they were getting the area ready for the nighttime ceremony to honor the end of Israel's Memorial Day:




(And as long as I'm over at Safra Square, here are a few picture of the surrounding gardens, just because:)




Okay, sorry about that tangent there....back to Yom HaZikaron now. Just as on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial day), the air-raid siren play an important role in Yom HaZikaron. After sundown on the first day (which was last night), at 8:00PM, a piercing siren sounds for one which time, everyone in the nation comes to a  standstill. Traffic stops. Conversations go silent. People stand motionless in the streets. The second siren sounds for two minutes the next day at 11:00AM, after which prayers are said in all the military cemeteries. Through my recent posts about Holocaust Remembrance Day as well as the moment of silence that we participated in for Gilad Schalit, you've seen images of the country coming to a standstill during these somber moments. Here is a video I found on You Tube that captures the feeling of the day, as cars on a busy highway in Tel Aviv come to a standstill (this happens to be from Holocaust Memorial Day, but it's the same idea):

The day immediately following YomHaZikaron is actually Israel's Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzmaut) - or, our 4th of July, so to say. So, here, Memorial Day and Independence Day are back-to-back holidays. It serves as a powerful statement that before Israeli independence is celebrated, the country must first remember all those who have fallen during its struggle for freedom. Thus, upon nightfall tonight, the day shall end with celebratory fireworks and patriotic music as we usher in the national holiday of Yom Ha'atzmaut. Air shows, parks filled with barbecues, and pride of country are all part of the order of the day tomorrow.


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