Many American Jews are aware of Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israel Independence Day – when the Jewish state pulls out all the stops to celebrate the day in May 1948 when it came into existence. Not as many American Jews, however, know that Yom Ha’atzmaut is preceded each year by another equally significant day on Israel’s calendar. Yom Hazikaron – Israel Memorial Day – which honors the state’s fallen soldiers, is marked on the day before Yom Ha’atzmaut. When Yom Hazikaron ends…Yom Ha’atzmaut begins. Connecticut’s Israel Young Emissaries told us why these two important days are held consecutively…and how they are celebrated at home.
Lidor David, Central Massachusetts
There is something very special about the Israeli Memorial Day, and Independence Day for me. You can really feel them in the air – the deep sadness that every Israeli can feel, and the great happiness that we all feel when the evening comes and the day changes from Memorial Day to Independence Day.
You can feel Memorial Day in everything in Israel; the school day is shorter in order for everyone to be able to take part in the ceremony in their village, all the programs on television air Memorial Day programs. The ceremonies always make me cry, there is so much power in them, and they are so important.
The sharp change from Memorial Day to Independence Day serves to make the feeling that Israel is our country even stronger; it deepens the understanding for Memorial Day and the enormous price we must pay, and still pay, in order for the Jewish people to have a peaceful place to call home.
Aner Shofty, Greenwich
To me, “Yom Hazikaron” is all about dedicating a day to remember all of our beloved Israeli soldiers who lost their lives for us – so that we can live our lives peacefully and normally, like everyone else. During Yom Hazikaron we acknowledge that having our own country to live in is not something we take for granted. Many men and women, some of them very young, have fought for this privilege; a lot of them are doing it while I write these words, and we should always be grateful to them. Remember those who have fallen in battle because, by their death, they have commanded us to live.
Dror Ben Ami , Central Massachusetts
For me, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut are directly connected. I come from the city Afula in Israel and in my city we have a big ceremony for the soldiers that died in Israel’s wars. For the past three years I have taken part in this big ceremony. As soon as we finish Yom Hazikaron, we begin the celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut. There is no gap between the two days in Israel – the reason is, we need to remember that one leads to the other. Without those who died in our wars we would not have Yom Haatzmaut. Yom Ha’atzmaut for me is a day of celebration; usually I go with my friends to music concerts. Every city in Israel runs a program for Yom Ha’atzmaut and they bring musicians and do festivals. Its hard to make the switch from one day to the other and that is why they go together. During my celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, I remember that this morning I heard a women talk about her late son on the radio.
Alon Ariel, Westport
Only 60 seconds separates the saddest day in Israel and the happiest day in Israel. Many people ask why these two days are so close to each other? The way I see it, this make perfect sense. These soldiers died so that we could live in this country. We should remember that and honor them for that. We also remember it and honor them by celebrating another year that Israel is still alive and kicking – and to show these soldiers that they did not die for nothing. They won. They gave us life.
Yinon Or and Gal Ron, West Hartford
For us, Yom Hazikaron is the ceremonies in school remembering our soldiers, and the ceremonies in our villages, to which all the residents come and show their solidarity with the bereaved families; it’s the quiet and sad songs about the soldiers that we hear in all the radio stations and the television programs we see, that talk about the wars and all the soldiers who lost their lives for the sake of our country. It’s a day of remembering the past and all those who impacted the history of our country, a day of sadness and self examination.
In the Yeshiva where Yinon studied, part of the day is dedicated to honor the fallen soldiers. One of Yinon’s friends lost his big brother in the army seven years ago, and since then this day has gotten another meaning for him. Each year Yinon and his friends get together at that friend’s house, play the guitar and sing songs in honor of his friend’s brother.
For the past three years, Gal was a counselor in a youth movement and every year all the counselors would come to the Yom Hazikaron ceremony wearing their youth movement shirts, standing in a group during the ceremony. Gal remembers feeling proud to stand with the youth movement, because on this day we remember those who fought and died in order to protect our country and make it better, and she felt that, in a way, she too did something – as small as it was – to try and make our country better.
Less than a day after Yom Hazikaron comes Yom Ha’atzmaut. For us, it’s 24 hours without sleep; our villages have festive ceremonies and fireworks, and after that we celebrate with our friends and see shows performed by Israeli artists that last all night. In the morning, after having hung up Israeli flags in the entrance to our houses and on the windows of our cars, we go with our families to a park and have a barbeque. Sometimes we visit some army bases.
Every year the question of why these two very different days are connected to one another is being raised. In our opinion, the fact that these days are connected, makes Yom Ha’atzmaut feel even more meaningful and powerful, because it comes right after a day that is so contrasted. It allows us to always remember and never forget that it is thanks to all those people who fought and who lost their lives that we have this beautiful country and we are able to celebrate as we do.
Next year, both of us are going to join the army with a lot of motivation, though we hope that in a few years, Israel will not need the army.