Four new holidays have been added to the Jewish calendar since the State of Israel’s establishment. These include Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day), as well as Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). These holidays are observed as National Holidays in Israel.
The parliament of Israel, otherwise known as the Knesset enacted that the day prior to Yom HaAtzmaut would be known as Yom HaZikaron, this day would be set to be a Memorial Day for those soldiers who died fighting in the War of Independence and other battles fought by the Israeli people.
Israeli Independence Day celebrates the creation of the Israeli state as it is currently known back in 1948. This is observed in the Hebrew month of Iyar either near or on the 5th day of the month. This is typically in April on the Gregorian calendar.
History and Customs of Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day)
A National Day of mourning, Yom HaZikaron remembers those who lost their lives while defending the State of Israel. Established by the Israeli Knesset, the day prior to Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) is dedicated to remembering and honoring those brave soldiers who gave their lives fighting in the War of Independence and other battles throughout history. A solemn day, entertainment venues are closed and throughout Israel, two-minute sirens are sounded, one during the evening that will signal the beginning of the holiday and another in the morning, before the public memorial ceremony that takes place nationwide.
The official ceremony of Yom HaZikaron begins at the Western Wall, with the Israeli flag lowered to half-staff. By law, businesses that feature entertainment are closed for the day and on the radio and television, programs regarding the wars that Israel has been a part of are shown and are heard throughout the day and convey the somber mood of that day.
During Yom HaZikaron, an air raid signal is played twice throughout Israel, which occurs on Yom HaShoah as well. As the sirens play, the entire country of Israel comes to a complete stop. Machinery is turned off and cranes hang empty in the air. Cars will park on the side of the road while its passengers silently stand next to their vehicles. The beginning of Israel’s Memorial Day is marked by the sounding of the first siren. Almost immediately before the public recites prayers at military cemeteries, the send air siren is played.
Public ceremonies throughout Israel are numerous with a national ceremony occurring on Mount Herzl at a military ceremony. Many leaders and soldiers from all over Israel are buried on Mount Herzl. Memorials for those who may have been from their communities and perished in Israel’s wars can take place at many schools as well as public buildings.
The end of the day is marked by an official ceremony of the Independence Day of Israel, taking place on Mount Herzl. This is when the Israeli flag is returned to full-staff. The scheduling in close proximity of both holidays is to remind the Jewish people and also signify the sacrifice that soldiers and their friends and family made in order for Israel to obtain both independence and security. This day is of the utmost importance to the Israeli people, as many who live there have either served in the armed forces themselves or have a connection to someone who was killed in military service.
To observe Yom HaZikaron-Israeli Memorial Day:
To commemorate Memorial Day, hosting a ceremony at your synagogue or school where you can read aloud the names of the fallen soldiers, which can be found on the official Israeli database. A special “Yizkor” sticker, commemorating those fallen can also be worn by Israelis during the day. At 8 pm Israeli time, stand at attention for two minutes with the other Israelites while the siren is played.
History and Customs for Yom HaAtzmaut- Independence Day:
The creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948 is marked by the Yom HaAtzmaut or Israeli Independence Day. On the 5th of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar, the holiday is observed and is preceded by Yom HaZikaron.
The soon-to-be Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion issued a declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. This declaration was recognized by the United States, the Soviet Union, as well as many other countries except by the surrounding Arab states.
The evening before Yom HaAtzmaut, the festivities begin with Israelis in the streets across the country attending outdoor concerts, parties, barbeques, and watching fireworks displays. The next day, friends and family will gather usually at a nature reserve or outside. Museums and other attractions will stay open to the public and all admittance free of charge. Teens will also compete in the Torah championship. The country’s highest honor, the Israeli prize is presented in a formal ceremony in Jerusalem to those who have excelled in their field.
During the evening, officials and celebrants come together at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem. Speeches along with a parade of soldiers are part of a ceremony that will end with the lighting of the twelve torches, representative of the 12 Tribes of Israel.
To celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut:
Celebrating the holiday with a party or a special meal using an Israeli recipe that appeals to you is worth a try. You can change your Facebook profile picture to the Israeli flag and share your love of the Jewish homeland by wish Israel a happy birthday.
Try making crafts with children for Yom HaAtzmaut such as easy-tear flags, painted planters, or pinwheels for the celebration. Any of these can help make the Israeli Independence Day a sacred one.