What is Yom HaZikaron and how does Israel observe it?
Yom HaZikaron is the day of national remembrance in Israel to commemorate all the soldiers and people who lost their lives during the struggle to defend the State of Israel. On this day we mourn and remember our fallen soldiers and all lives lost by terror. Yom HaZikaron, which goes by the Jewish calendar, begins with a siren at 8:00 in the evening (13 April, 2021). As soon as the siren is heard, Israeli citizens stop whatever they’re doing, wherever they are, and stand firm to honor those they’ve lost. People driving on highways stop their cars in the middle of the road to get out and stand in remembrance. A whole office will stop working and a family having dinner will stop eating in order to spend a minute in respectful silence.
After the first siren, the State Memorial Ceremony begins at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the Chief of the General Staff of the IDF, and the President take part in this ceremony. The next day, there’s another two-minute siren at 11:00 in the morning. This siren marks the beginning of private memorial ceremonies that take place in cemeteries or schools.
At night, (on 14 April, 2021) the final ceremony is held at Mount Herzl National Cemetery. This ceremony ends Yom HaZikaron and marks the beginning of Israel’s Independence Day.
Generally, in other countries, the Remembrance Day (Yom HaZikaron) of fallen soldiers and the Independence Day occur in two separate days of the year. In Israel, it was decided in accordance with the law that the Independence Day needs to begin the moment that Remembrance Day ends. This is because the State of Israel wouldn’t be able to celebrate its existence if it weren’t for those who gave their lives for it. We wouldn’t be able to have one of those days without the other one. We honor their memory and everything they fought for, so that today, we can celebrate our independence.