In America the two holidays are separated by about five weeks. The experience is very different in Israel when the two holidays “partner,” one immediately starting as the other ends.
It’s my first time being in Israel for these two special days. While living in America I was aware of the two holidays celebrated here, but could not imagine the impact they would have when experienced in Israel. I had seen a video of what happens when the sirens sound on Yom HaZikaron so I was expecting to experience that.
With a piercing voice the sirens set the proper tone for Yom HaZikaron. They call out to us to stop and remember. Stop and honor those who we lost defending our land and those who were cut down by terrorist actions. Stop and keep the memories alive of those precious souls. Stop. Honor them. It is amazing how the entire country does just that for the duration of the sirens. Cars sit idle with doors open, drivers and passengers stand alongside them like statues, everyone frozen in their steps. In our Corona world, I wonder how many people went out of their homes in time to “stop” as I did and better receive the message of the sirens.
In the afternoon, I zoomed into a program to view a solemn remembrance complete with memorial prayers. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, since 1860 until this month there were 23,816 fallen Israeli soldiers and 3,153 victims of terror, but the program that I watched did not deal in abstract numbers. Individuals spoke about individuals. A young woman spoke about relatives who were killed in a terrorist attack. Others spoke about soldiers who died defending the State of Israel. As a photo of each handsome young soldier was displayed on the screen, a person narrated the words that accompanied the picture. It was not only the fact that the words were in Hebrew that made it difficult for me to read them but also the veil of tears that welled up from my aching heart.
And then, since the program started with just enough time for Yom Ha’atzmaut to begin immediately following it, it seemed that somebody had flipped a switch. I was not prepared for the instant change from solemn emotion to joyful emotion. How could this be right? How could we suddenly turn from one observance to the other? How could the dates have fallen out this way?
But then I realized during the Daglanut performance, the waving of large Israeli flags that started the next holiday, that this was exactly right. Yom Ha’atzmaut is a date in history—the 5th of Iyar. Yom Hazikaron is celebrated the day before that. What better way to honor the memory of those who fought for Israel than to follow memorializing them with the celebration that they would rejoice in?
It’s time to keep our heroes in our hearts and take them along with us to celebrate the triumph of Israel’s 72 years.