Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist
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For whom the siren sounds: The culture of memory in Israel

On the culture of memory in Israel and the profound link between the IDF fallen and those killed in the Holocaust

This week, (on the 27th of Nissan), The State of Israel commemorated Yom Hashoah Ugevurah (“Holocaust and Heroes Memorial Day”). This marked the first of four special commemoration/celebration days in the Zionist calendar. Less than a week later Israel marks Yom Hazikaron (whose full name is “Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism”) and then celebrates Yom Haazmaut (“Independence Day”), followed by Yom Yerushalayim (“Jerusalem Day”).  These days are highly instructive regarding the culture of memory in Israel, specifically the similar, yet different, memorial days.

Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron are inescapable events in Israel. Being here one is both surrounded and enveloped by these two memorial days.

  • The radio plays poignant slow beautiful songs of love, loss and yearning. These songs are known as “Memorial Day Songs.”
  • The newspapers are full of emotional stories and articles that are related to the days.
  • The TV runs sensitive programming the entire day related to witness accounts and stories of those who fell. Even Israeli MTV has special Memorial Day programing. Movie channels are closed in honour of the fallen.
  • All places of public entertainment are closed.
  • Sirens wail through the land leading the entire country to pause and reflect.
IDF Memorial, Modiin
IDF Memorial, Modiin. (Photo: (c) Tuvia Book, 2014)

On Yom Hashoah six million live Jews stand in silence here in Israel as the sirens soul-piercing wail is heard across the land and honour and remember those who were murdered simply because they were Jews, and there was no Jewish State to protect them, or for them to freely go to.

Below is the quote from the IAF pilots who flew over Auschwitz on the 60th anniversary of its liberation. Unfortunately, they were 60 years too late to stop the mass murder. However, the highly symbolic mission carried a powerful message about the times we now live in.

We, the pilots of the IAF, flying in the skies above this camp of horrors, arose from the ashes of the millions of victims, and shoulder their muted cries, salute their courage and promise to be the shield of the Jewish people and its land – Israel.”

IAF PLanes over Auchwitz
IAF F15’s Over Auschwitz (Photo: IAF)

Both sirens are about the way honour of the dead is commemorated in the culture of memory in Israel. The culture of honour is both ritualised and contextualised through behavior. The sirens are moments of reflection on both enormity of what was lost simply because there was no Jewish State, and the price we pay to keep the Jewish dream alive and to make sure that, “never again” means, “never again!”

Rabbi Stuart Weiss, who lost a son, Ari, fighting in Jenin during his IDF service, wrote a moving piece about the different types of death commemorated by these two memorial days. In an article about a young soldier, Baruch Shapiro, killed in the War of Independence defending the road to Jerusalem, he wrote how the aging father mourned at the funeral on Mt Herzl of the last remaining family member, who had survived the Holocaust and come to Israel to build a new life, by dancing next to his son’s fresh grave. When the shocked onlookers tried to comprehend the old mans behavior he responded:

Baruch gave his life for all the people of Israel, so they could be free, and safe, and independent. This is not the waste of life. It is the celebration of a life!”

We should honour both the dead of the Shoah and those who died defending our homeland by living ethical and moral lives and making the most of our lives. We should be grateful every day for the times we live in where we Jews are in charge of our own destiny in our own land, and be aware of the price paid for this privilege. We indeed live in a time of wonders and miracles.


Israeli Flags for Independence Day in Modiin (Photo: (c) T. Book, 2014)

Memorial Day is a stark reminder that we did not receive our State on a silver platter and how grateful we are for those young boys and girls who give the best years of their lives, and sometimes their very lives themselves, and are the people who step forward to keep our Zionist dream alive.

I will devote all of my strength, and even sacrifice my life, in the defense of the homeland and the freedom of Israel.”


– From the Induction Oath to the IDF                                  

Band of Miluimniks_Final_72_PPI

“Band of Brothers,”  (Photo: (c) Tuvia Book, 2014)

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
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