Monday, May 1, 2017
The Israeli Knesset established the fourth of Iyar, the day preceding Yom Ha-Atzmaut, as a Memorial Day for soldiers who lost their lives in battle for the creation of the State of Israel and all those soldiers who died subsequently defending the State of Israel.
Perhaps the most widely recognized commemoration, as on Yom HaShoah, an air raid siren is played twice during Yom Ha-Zikaron. All activity, including traffic, immediately ceases. People get out of their cars, even in the middle of otherwise busy highways, and stand in respect for the sacrifice of those who died defending Israel. The first siren marks the beginning of Memorial Day and the second is sounded immediately prior to the public recitation of prayers in military cemeteries.
Numerous public ceremonies are held throughout Israel. Special readings and poems are often recited. There is a national ceremony at the military cemetery on Mt. Herzl, where many of Israel's leaders and soldiers are buried. Many schools and public buildings have memorial corners with memorials to those from their community who died in Israel's wars.
While mostly viewed in a secular national character, there is also a religious component to Yom Ha-Zikaron. There is a special Yizkor (remembrance) prayer and "El Maleh Rachamim" memorial prayer for members of the Israeli Defense Forces who died in the line of duty, which is read at many of the Yom Ha-Zikaron ceremonies.
In tune with the Jewish tradition of recognizing joy in times of sadness and sadness in times of joy, Yom Ha-Zikaron's somber end heralds the beginning of the joyous and festive Yom Ha-Atzmaut, Independence Day.