YOM HAZIKARON/REMEMBRANCE DAY FOR THE FALLEN OF ISRAEL
By Ariella Bracha Waldinger
Yom HaZikaron is not a holiday! It is a Day of Remembrance dedicated to the memory of those who have fallen in Israel’s wars and acts of terrorism. On this special day, we recall the recent and not so recent losses that sear our heartstrings with the agony of lives cut short. It is a time of official recognition that brings families and friends together to acknowledge those who have lost their lives.
The date of this Remembrance Day is the 4th of the Hebrew month of Iyar. This year it begins on the night of May 4th and continues through the day of May 5th. The practice of commemorating this day began in 1951 under the leadership of Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. This specific date was chosen to highlight the connection between Independence Day, which is the day following Yom Hazikaron, and the people who died to enable us to achieve and maintain our independence. The connection is a powerful statement of the Jewish belief that every life is a world of its own and of inestimable value. Therefore, the untimely death of one Jewish soul…..one loved one is a tragedy which impacts the entire nation.
The Jewish People is a people of collective memory: Remember the Exodus from Egypt etc. Therefore, in each generation we honor the memories of those who have perished, in order to link them in a precious chain to the collective memory of our nation. Since there is hardly anyone in Israel who has not lost a family member, friend or acquaintance, the day is significant for every Jew.
Yom HaZikaron begins at 8 P.M. with a 2-minute siren. There is a second siren at 11 a.m. the following morning. It is customary for everyone to stop what they are doing, including driving one’s car on the highway, and to observe two minutes of silence. These moments of silence can be uplifted through personal prayer and contemplation. TV and radio stations devote the entire day to programs related to the subject. Flags are flown at half-mast to indicate the seriousness of the day. Commemoration ceremonies are held throughout the country in public buildings and cemeteries.
For those of you who are new to Israel or for those who have no family and are unsure what to do to honor this day, here are some suggestions:
- Go to a military cemetery and stand together with those who have lost loved ones. Their pain will become your pain as you share the experience.
- Say Tehillim (Psalms) for the souls of the departed
- Give charity on their behalf
- Do deeds of kindness in their merit
- Read up on the history of Israel
- Read books on the various wars
- Study about the IDF, its operations and insignia
- Read selections of Israeli poetry
- Light a candle or candles for their souls
- Say the prayer for the Welfare of the soldiers in the IDF:
May He who blessed our forefathers Avraham, Isaac and Jacob, bless the soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces who keep guard over our country and the cities of our Lord from the border with Lebanon to the Egyptian desert and from the Mediterranean Sea to the approach to the Arava, be they on land, air or sea. May the Almighty deliver to us our enemies who arise against us. May the Holy One, Blessed Be HE, preserve our armed forces and save them from sorrow and peril, danger and illness. May HE send blessing and success in all their endeavors and may HE deliver to them those who hate us and crown them with salvation and victory, so that the saying may be fulfilled through them, For the Lord, your G-d, who walks with you and fights your enemies for you shall save you and let us say AMEN.
The most important suggestion I can make in regards to this significant Day of Remembering is to actually spend quality time learning and reflecting upon the deeper meaning of this day. DO NOT ALLOW IT GO TO WASTE! Am Yisrael needs your efforts to enable us all to stand Tall and Proud as Jews LIVING IN OUR G-D GIVEN ANCESTRAL INHERITANCE where we too must become courageous warriors if our nation is to survive.
One of my favorite books is titled: Lionhearts: Heroes of Israel edited by Michael Bar-Zohar. It is about the heroes of Israel dating from 1897 up until 1998. In the Introduction, the editor states, “Lionhearts is dedicated to the fighters who fell in battle or on Israel’s secret fronts and to those who are alive today. It is dedicated to the spirit of the fighters, to the quality of volunteering, self-sacrifice for one’s fellow man, utmost courage and nobility without which a nation can’t exist. A hero is not measured by fame, but by his willingness to take risks for his nation and even sacrifice his life for it. The heroes and heroines in the book share many commonalities: pure souls and burning dreams, extreme modesty, a humane approach to both their friends and enemies, a deep love of their land and a total identification with their nation. Each of us could learn from the stories in this book and I highly recommend it.”
With Blessings for a deeply meaningful and enriching Yom HaZikaron, Ariella Bracha