Remembering the Fallen and Celebrating Freedom in Solidarity with Israel
Practically every nation in the world celebrates its own version of Memorial Day and Independence Day. But in no other country but Israel do the two days follow each other, as a visible and emotional reminder that the country’s self-governance comes through the heroic efforts of many who lost their lives.
In America, we have Memorial Day in late May and Independence Day on July 4th. While also national holidays, the two are celebrated remarkably differently here. In Israel, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut are national holidays, meaning that by law, all businesses, places of entertainment, government offices and schools are closed. A two-minute siren sounds at nightfall to mark the entrance of Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day. The streets and cities become eerily silent as Israelis stop their daily activities to remember the sacrifices made by their armed forces through the many wars that have been fought to keep Israel free. It is also a day of remembrance for all of those who lost their lives to terrorism. The next morning, the siren rings again, at 11:00 am, ushering in the many memorial prayer services at military cemeteries. All television and radio stations are completely focused on Yom Hazikaron, filled with stories about Israel’s struggle for independence and of the many heroic deeds of her soldiers and citizens.
Once Yom Hazikaron comes to a close, Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day, enters and the emotion shifts to one of revelry, celebration, fireworks, barbecues and awesome displays of Israeli fighter jets, unarguably the best in the world. Yom Haatzmaut celebrates the end of the British Mandate and modern Israel’s declaration of independence. While government offices, schools and many business remain closed, public entertainment venues, such as cafes and restaurants do open to cater to the joyous crowds. Most Israelis, though, hit the parks, beaches and mountains to enjoy the time-honored Israeli tradition—the barbecue.
How to spend Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut in America
For certain, to be in Israel for these two important holidays is very special. But, here in America Jewish communities across the country mark the day with concerts, barbecues, flag-making and waving, fun-day activities for the kids, rallies and other spirited activities to help us connect to our homeland. Jewish community centers, such as here in Los Angeles, typically host special evenings to stand together in remembrance of fallen soldiers and victims of terror, followed the next day by special programs that recognize the contributions of Israelis in the world. Memorial programs are featured at the Israeli Consulate and local synagogues.
Check out what is going on in your community, and take a break from your normal routine to stand together with Israel on Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haazmaut.
By Oren Laurent