Israel Memorial Day Yom Hazikaron

Israel Mourns and Celebrates

Shalom Y’all:

These past few weeks were momentous ones for the State of Israel. On April 12, Israel celebrated Yom HaShoah, which commemorates the death of millions of Jews during the Holocaust.

Yad Vashem Israel Hall Of Names

Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Hall of Names

 

On April 18, Yom Hazikaron, Israel Memorial Day, Israelis remembered Israeli soldiers missing in action, those who lost their lives fighting for freedom for the State of Israel, and terrorist victims, felled by forces who wish to see the end of the Jewish State.

Garden of The Missing In Action, Mt. Herzl, Jerusalem, Israel

President Rivlin pays his respects at the Garden of The Missing In Action, Mt. Herzl, Jerusalem, Israel

 

This was immediately followed, on April 19, by the joyous celebrations of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s 70th Independence Day. 

Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day, Flag Dance

Flag Dance performed by Bet Shemesh students in honor of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day

Israel Independence Day Flags

Israel flags and sign commemorating Israel Independence Day.

 

Lag B’omer with its festive bonfires was on May 3.   

Lag B'Omer Bonfire, Jerusalem, Israel

Lag B’Omer Bonfire

 

On May 12, Israel won the Eurovision Song contest. See the winning song, Toy,  by Netta Barzilai below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CziHrYYSyPc

 

On May 13 Israelis rejoiced on Yom Yerushalayim, which celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem and the ability of Jews to visit the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. 

Hassid praying at the Western Wall, Jerusalem, Israel

Hassid praying at the Western Wall, Jerusalem, Israel

 

On May 14, the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem, followed two days later by Guatemala and on May 21 by Paraguay. Unfortunately, on the day of the United States Embassy move, 50,000 Palestinians engaged in very violent riots, including attempts to breach the security wall separating Gaza from Israel, throwing Molotov cocktails, sending flaming kites towards Israel, etc. These acts, which endangered the lives of Israeli citizens, resulted in the unfortunate death of 62 Palestinians, at least 53 of whom were members of terrorist organizations. Let’s hope Hamas will end the violence so peace can be restored.

US Embassy, Jerusalem, Israel

US Embassy, Jerusalem, Israel

 

After nightfall on May 19 and on May 20, Israel celebrated the Jewish Holiday of Shavuot, Pentecost, on which Jews celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It’s customary to learn Torah throughout the night. In Jerusalem, tens of thousands finish their nightime of study by walking to the Kotel, Western Wall, before dawn, to pray the morning prayer at sunrise. This practice began in 1967, when the army regained control of the Kotel a week before Shavuot and opened it to Jewish visitors on Shavuot. That year over 200,00 Jews came to pray at the site that had been off limits to them since 1948. Since then thousands of Jews continue to walk to the Kotel every Shavuot.

Crowds praying at dawn at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel.

Crowds praying at dawn at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel.

 

Now its back to the regular routine: for elementary, junior high and high school students until the end of school year in June; college students finish in June unless they they take classes in the summer semester, which ends in August; and for many employees until August, when most Israelis take their vacations.

The three week period of mourning for the Temple begins on July 1 and Tisha B’Av, the fast day for the two Temples, begins the night of  July 21.

The Jewish High Holidays are early this year. The first night of Rosh Hashanah is on September 9.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Holocaust, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel, Israel Independence Day, Israel Memorial Day Yom Hazikaron, Jerusalem, Jerusalem Day, Jewish, Jewish Blog, Shavout, Video, Western Wall Kotel, Yom Haatzmaut, Yom Hazikaron, Yom Yerushalayim | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Freedom Is Not Free- Remembering The Fallen Heroes

1600px-Flickr_-_Israel_Defense_Forces_-_Flags_for_the_Fallen

                                                                                                                                                           http://www.flickr.com/people/45644610@N03

 

Israel will be 69 years old on  the night of May 1, 2017.

Those 69 years have been filled with both joy and sorrow. Israel has fought in 8 wars and military operations since its founding in 1948. Over 23,000 soldiers have been killed as a result of these operations and over 3,000 civilians have lost their lives due to terrorist attacks.

In a country as small as Israel (the most recent survey showed that Israel has about 8.7 million people), almost everyone has either had a family member killed or injured, or knows someone who was so affected.  

Therefore, unlike most Americans today, Israel takes Memorial Day very seriously.  

In 1968, The United States Congress changed the date of Memorial Day, which was originally May 30, to the last Monday in May to create a three day weekend. This has diluted the purpose of the day. On Memorial Day in the United States, the U.S. flag is lowered to half staff until noon. Americans who have lost family members or friends in the various wars and conflicts in which the United States has been engaged visit cemeteries to pay tribute to the fallen. Many attend Memorial Day parades which feature veterans and members of the various Armed Forces. There is also a National Memorial Day Concert which takes place on the lawn of the United States Capitol.

However, for most Americans the Memorial Day weekend means the unofficial start of the summer season, the Indy 500, NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, The Memorial Tournament golf event, the final of the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship, and, of course, Memorial Day Sales and barbecues.

In 2000, perhaps in response to the dilution of the meaning of the day, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, asking people to stop and remember the fallen at 3:00 P.M on Memorial Day Monday. To mark the Moment, Major League Baseball games halt, Amtrak train whistles sound across the country, and other organisations do what they can to remind Americans to observe the Moment.

For Israel, the pain of the loss of the fallen is very fresh. This year another 97 people were added to that roster of heroes. There are over 9,000 bereaved parents in Israel, almost 5,000 widows and close to 2,000 orphans under the age of 30, all of whom lost a family member fighting for Israel’s right to exist. This number does not include the relatives and friends of the over 3,000 civilians killed by terrorists.

Israel understands all too well the debt of gratitude it owes to its soldiers and its heroes who sacrificed their lives so that Israel could exist and be free. Therefore, Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, is taken very seriously.

It officially begins with a one minute siren, heard throughout the country, at 8 P.M., during which the entire nation stands still for one minute. Even traffic is halted. This is followed by an official State Ceremony at the Western Wall (the Kotel) in Jerusalem and other gatherings and services throughout the country. (Israelis take this moment so seriously that yesterday, Sunday,  a group of Israelis on a flight from Marrakesh to Munich stood silently for one minute  at 8 P.M.)

For the next 24 hours, all theatres, cinemas, nightclubs, bars, etc. are closed. Radio and television station broadcast programs portraying the lives and heroic deeds of fallen soldiers and play melancholy music which conveys the mood of the day.

A second memorial siren, this one lasting for two minutes, is sounded at 11 A.M. the next morning, marking the beginning of the public recitation of prayers in the military cemeteries throughout the country. The official service is held at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. Flags are lowered to half staff, special memorial prayers are recited, government officials speak, and a wreath is laid. The ceremony usually concludes with a military gun salute.

At 1PM another national service takes place at Mt. Herzl, this one honoring the memories of those felled by terrorist acts.

This year over 1.5 million Israelis are expected to pay their respects at the graves of those killed in Israel’s struggles.

Schools are open, but almost every high school in Israel has a “memorial corner” with the pictures of the school’s graduates who were killed defending the State. Some high schools organize their own Yom Hazikaron ceremonies and invite the families of the fallen graduates to participate.

Students wear white shirts and blue pants, or skirts, to school that day and soldiers wear their uniforms to the military cemeteries.

A few minutes after sundown, when Memorial day ends, the official switch from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, takes place. In a ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, the flag is raised from half staff to the top of the pole. The president of Israel then delivers a speech of congratulations, and soldiers representing the Army, Navy, and Air Force parade with their flags. This is followed by a torch lighting ceremony, marking the country’s achievements, Many municipalities have their own flag ceremony in which students march with the Israeli flag.

Israelis celebrate Independence Day in a number of ways. Many cities have nighttime activities, fireworks and free concerts. Many spend the night singing Israeli songs and dancing Israeli folk dances. During the day, many families go on hikes and picnics. Others barbeque at home or with family and friends.  Army camps are open to the public and many museums and cultural institutions offer free admission and programs. The day concludes with the granting of the Israeli Prize to individuals who have made unique contributions to Israel’s culture, science, arts and humanities.

The juxtaposition of these two very disparate days and moods is both very moving and meaningful. It helps us realise that freedom is not free. There is a high price to pay and we should be eternally grateful to those who pay it.

Let us  hope that no additional names will be added to the list of the fallen and that we will finally be able to live together in peace.

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Categories: Israel, Israel Independence Day, Israel Memorial Day Yom Hazikaron, It Happened In Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish, Jewish Blog, Jewish Holidays, Yom Haatzmaut, Yom Hazikaron | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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