Elana Sztokman’s piece on Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut really hit me hard. The piece, for all those that may have missed it, discusses how the holidays are emotionally manipulative. A transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day is difficult, filled with emotions of sadness and happiness.
We even have transition ceremonies to usher in Independence Day.
It’s quite different from an outside perspective.
I never thought of the massive change that occurs in the emotional atmosphere in Israel. It’s more intense in Israel, and it’s easy to see why Elana believes that it’s an emotionally manipulative experience.
Quick succession of the holidays does allow for less dwelling on the sadness and for us to get back to our lives faster. But it’s almost as if it seems forced. Ninety-five names were added to the list of soldiers killed since 1860 to bring the total to 23,741.
Memorial services are beautiful, we hear stories of loved ones that have died, and sirens blare in the air for two minutes. The country takes two minutes to mourn those that have died, and then we’re back to a day of sadness.
But it doesn’t last long.
Celebrations for Yom Ha’atzmaut begin just hours after the two-minute sirens, with everyone celebrating Independence Day. I’m not sure I’ve seen people transition from such deep morning to celebration as quickly.
The two-minute standstill is riveting for me. It’s an emotional two minutes of silence. In the States, even if we stand in silence, people are walking by, cars are honking horns – life keeps moving. But in Israel, it’s quiet and all traffic comes to a standstill. Those two minutes of remembrance are awe-inspiring because while short, they include nearly everyone.
There’s a sense of community during this time, where everyone is coming together to remember those who have fallen.
I can say that on Memorial Day in the US, it’s very different outside of the Jewish community. People may give a thought to the day, but I have never seen a community come together in the US as they do in Israel outside of 9/11.
Israelis do celebrate, with a lot of sadness and celebration in rapid succession, and it may seem forced, but it’s still a community-wide experience. Even the reading of “Magash Hakesef” is touching.
Some high schools even organize their own ceremonies and invite the parents of fallen graduates to join in on the ceremony.
It’s not about religion on this day, but rather a civil culture; a culture that is starting to disappear in the United States and elsewhere. Outside of Israel, and in the US, for example, Yom Hazikaron becomes part of Independence Day. The mix of the two, with just a short ceremony to honor the fallen or the Kaddish, almost seems as if the experience is rushed.
Israel’s quick transition of the back-to-back holidays may be emotional and “rushed,” but it’s still better than what I have experienced in the US. Israel’s community remains strong, and time is devoted to the fallen. Other countries seem to rush into celebration instead of honoring those who have died.