Israel Commemorates and Celebrates Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut

Israel will pause on Sunday night, April 18, for one minute, as a siren wails to mark the beginning of Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day. Israel and the Jewish world will mourn the nation’s 22,600 fallen soldiers and terror victims. Then on the following day, the country will erupt in celebration for Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day.

Scheduling Yom Hazikaron right before Yom Ha’atzmaut reminds people of the price paid for independence. Most Israelis have served in the armed forces or have a connection with people who were killed during their military service.

Different Activities for Different Moods

Memorial Day in Israel is a solemn time. Everything stops when the siren is heard, including traffic on the roads. Theaters and restaurants are closed, and radio and television stations broadcast sad music and war documentaries.

But the mood changes the following day. On Yom Ha’atzmaut schools and businesses are closed. In the cities, crowds gather to watch public shows and many spend the night dancing and singing Israeli songs. During the day, thousands of Israeli families go out on hikes and picnics. The day culminates with the granting of the Israel Prize for unique contributions to the country’s culture, science, arts, and the humanities.

The Sense of Israel-ness

These three national days—Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut, which fall within one week—is when the sense of Israelihood is felt most keenly. This is when the collective language is the most uniting and embracing. This is the week when Israeli flags wave on all major streets across the country and from most windows and cars.

This is the week when skeptical Israelis set aside their cynicism and appreciate their existence.  This is the one week when newspapers focus not on current events, but on stories that happened many years ago, commemorating those who died so the country can survive.

The week between the twenty-seventh of Nisan, Yom Hashoah, and the fifth of Iyar, Yom Ha’atzmaut, is modern Israel’s best history lesson. Yom Hashoah commemorates the six million Jews murdered during World War II. Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrates the recovery, the revival of the Jewish state, and Yom Hazikaron is not only a day of remembrance, but also a day of awareness. The state of Israel, with all its wonders and achievements, is our era’s biggest miracle, and we should thank those who paid the price.

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