Yom Hazikaron – Israeli Memorial Day

Yom Hazikaron Jewish Holiday Information
Yom Hazikaron, known as Israeli Memorial Day and formally as Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Day, is an Israeli national Jewish holiday that starts at sunset on the 3rd day of the month of Iyar on the Hebrew calendar. It always precedes the Jewish holiday Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), which beings at sundown directly after Yom Hazikaron.

Scheduling Memorial Day right before Independence Day is intended to remind people of the price paid for independence and that what was achieved was done through sacrifice. This transition shows the importance of this Jewish holiday among Israelis, most of who have served or have a connection with those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the state of Israel. The Jewish holiday gets its name from zakhar, the Hebrew word for “remember” and zikaron, the Hebrew word for “memorial.”

This somber Jewish holiday commemorates veterans and fallen military personnel of the Israeli Defense Forces and other security services that died in the modern Arab-Israeli conflict as well as fallen members of the Jewish Brigade. It also commemorates members of the Haganah and Irgun who died before the establishment of Israel. The Jewish holiday Yom Hazikaron also serves as a remembrance of citizens who’ve been murdered though acts of terrorism. As of Yom Hazikaron 2008, Israel honors the memory of 22,437 people killed in the line of duty and 1,635 civilian terror victims.

Beginning at sunset on the Jewish holiday, all places of entertainment are closed by civil law. Many Israelis attend memorial ceremonies for relatives and friends who’ve died in combat. Many schools provide commemoration services for former students who have died serving their country. Radio and television stations are devoted to broadcasting Jewish-holiday programs about the lives and deeds of fallen Israeli soldiers.

At 8 pm on 3 Iyar, air-raid sirens are sounded for one minute. Upon hearing the sirens, all Israelis immediately stop what they are doing, cars pull over in traffic, and the entire state stands silent in reverence to the fallen. Many Jews say a silent prayer for the fallen during the moment of silence, and at the Western Wall, a flag of Israel is lowered to half mast. Again at 11 am the next morning, a two-minute siren is sounded marking the official national memorial ceremonies for the Jewish holiday and private remembrance gatherings at each cemetery where the dead are buried. The Jewish holiday officially comes to a close between 7 pm and 8 pm when the flag on the Western Wall is raised again and the ceremonies begin for the Jewish holiday Israeli Independence day or Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Magah Hakesef (The Silver Platter) is a Jewish-holiday poem written by Nathan Alterman during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 and was the most common poem read on Yom Hazikaron during the 1950s and ‘60s. The Jewish-holiday poem has achieved a status close to that of the Gettysburg Address by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln during the civil war. Hare’ut (Friendship), a popular song composed in 1949, is often used in celebrations for the Jewish Holiday of Yom Hazikaron, and was said to be the favorite song of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Silver Platter by Nathan Alterman

The earth grows still. The lurid sky slowly pales over smoking borders.
Heartsick but still living, a people stand by
To greet the uniqueness
Of the miracle. Readied, they wait beneath the moon,
Wrapped in awesome joy before the light. – – Then soon,
A girl and boy step forward,
And slowly walk before the waiting nation;
In work clothes and heavy-shod
They climb
In stillness.
Wearing still the dress of battle, the grime
Of aching day and fired night
Unwashed, weary until death, not knowing rest,
But wearing youth like dewdrops in their hair.
– – Silently the two approach
And stand.
Are they of the quick or of the dead?
Through wondering tears, the people stare.
“Who are you, the silent two?”
And they reply: “We are the silver platter
Upon which the Jewish State was served to you.”
And speaking, fall in shadow at the nation’s feet.
Let the rest in Israel’s chronicles be told.

Friendship by Chayim Guri

In the Negev, the autumn night falls,
And it kindles the stars in the quiet,
As the breeze rustles outside the door
And the dust settles down on the highway.

Time goes on, do we notice at all
How the months have gone by one by one?
Time goes by, there are few of us left,
And so many we once knew are gone.

They are gone from our midst,
All their laughter, their youth and their splendor.
But we know that a friendship like that,
We are bound all our lives to remember,
For a love that in battle is forged,
Will endure while we live, fierce and tender.

Oh, the friendship we bore without words,
It was silent and grey, it was wordless.
From the pain and the blood of those days,
It remains with us, ardent and yearning.

In the name of that friendship we know,
In its name we’ll go on, every forward,
For those friends, when they fell on their swords,
Left us this precious gift to recall them.

They are gone from our midst,
All their laughter, their youth and their splendor.
But we know that a friendship like that,
We are bound all our lives to remember,
For a love that in battle is forged,
Will endure while we live, fierce and tender.