יום הזכרון Israeli Memorial Day, so far 23,645 soldiers have given their lives for the state of Israel since 1860.
From the Jewish Virtual library,
Established unofficially with the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, and enacted into law in 1963, the day preceding Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) is observed as a Memorial Day for soldiers who lost their lives in battle or while otherwise defending Israel.
Celebrated on the fourth of Iyar every year, Yom HaZikaron is one of four new holidays that were added to the Jewish national calendar since the creation of Israel. The other three are: Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Heroes and Martyrs’ Day),Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day).
Since the second intifada, also included are those such as security guards who have given their life defending malls, restaurants and public buildings from terrorists. And there are plenty of those.
Yom HaZikaron is observed very differently than American Memorial day. I think Israel has it right. In America it’s sales, shopping, BBQ and getting together with friends and family. Some still visit graves and decorate them, it used to be called Decoration Day. In Israel, at 20:00 local time a one-minute siren sounds. Another siren will sound the following morning at 11:00. Then everyone observes a moment of silence to remember the fallen and terror victims. By law, all places of entertainment are closed on the eve of Yom Hazikaron, and broadcasting and educational bodies note the solemnity of the day. Regular television programs cease for the day, and the names and ranks of every soldier who died for Israel are displayed in a 24-hour television broadcast.
Honor and remembrance. The only ones who don’t observe are the Arabs, with the exception of the Druze and Bedouins, they do observe. Haredi Jews do not observe either.
Years ago I interviewed a man who had been a navigation unit commander for a tank battalion in Israel during the Yom Kippur war. He just didn’t tell me that last bit at the time. But he was talking about how war is different in America for the most part than it is in Israel. In Israel when the enemy gets in he will quite likely be walking down the street of someone you know. It’s your backyard that has the fighting in it. The closest I can imagine is the American un-Civil war. The wars of Israel are up close and personal. It’s also worth remembering the honored include those that fought for pre-state Israel in the Haganah, Lehi and the Irgun.
I think it was on a radio program, Temple Talk, that I heard the hosts discussing why Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut are right next to each other. A host’s daughter had told her Dad that it didn’t seem fair to those grieving that the next day everyone would be out in the streets partying. He explained to her that without the sacrifice of the lives observed during Yom HaZikaron that there wouldn’t even be a state of Israel. That the sacrifice is what enabled the joy, and that joy is why those men and women did not die in vain.
I was so very fortunate as to be able to attend a Yom HaZikaron service tonight, it was very, very meaningful. If you were not so blessed, I will share a link with you to a service that was broadcast from Ammunition Hill. There is a museum there now.
“A State is not handed to a people on a silver platter.”
Chaim Weizmann, first president of Israel
The Silver Platter, written by Nathan Alterman
And the land grows still, the red eye of the sky slowly dimming over smoking frontiers
As the nation arises, Torn at heart but breathing, To receive its miracle, the only miracle
As the ceremony draws near, it will rise, standing erect in the moonlight in terror and joy
When across from it will step out a youth and a lass and slowly march toward the nation
Dressed in battle gear, dirty, Shoes heavy with grime, they ascend the path quietly
To change garb, to wipe their brow
They have not yet found time. Still bone weary from days and from nights in the field
Full of endless fatigue and unrested,
Yet the dew of their youth. Is still seen on their head
Thus they stand at attention, giving no sign of life or death
Then a nation in tears and amazement
will ask: “Who are you?”
And they will answer quietly, “We Are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given.”
Thus they will say and fall back in shadows
And the rest will be told In the chronicles of Israel
May their memory be for a blessing.