Stage set for annual Yom Hazikaron memorial ceremony in Ramat HaKovesh, Israel
|Date||4 Iyar (Hebrew calendar)|
|2015 date||22 April|
|Related to||Yom Ha'atzmaut|
Yom Hazikaron (in full Yom Hazikaron l'Chalalei Ma'arachot Yisrael ul'Nifgaei Peulot Ha'eivah Hebrew: יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה; lit. "Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism") is Israel's official Memorial Day, enacted into law in 1963. While Yom Hazikaron has been traditionally dedicated to fallen soldiers, commemoration has now been extended to civilian victims of political violence, Palestinian political violence, and terrorism in general.
In 1949 and 1950, the first two years after the declaration of the State, memorial services for soldiers who fell in the War of Independence were held on Independence Day. Services at military cemeteries were coordinated between the IDF and the Ministry of Defense. A concern arose, expressed by families of fallen soldiers, to establish a separate memorial day observance distinct from the festive celebrations of national independence. In response, and in light of public debate on the issue, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion - also serving as Minister of Defense - established in January 1951 the "Public Council for Soldiers' Commemoration". This council recommended establishing the 4th of Iyyar, the day preceding Independence Day, as the "General Memorial Day for the Heroes of the War of Independence". This proposal won government approval that same year.
Yom Hazikaron is the national remembrance day observed in Israel for those who fell since 1860, when Jews were first allowed to live in Palestine outside of Jerusalem's Old City walls. As of April, 2015 that number was 23,320. National memorial services are held in the presence of Israel's top leadership and military personnel. The day opens with a siren the preceding evening at 20:00 (8:00 pm), given that in the Hebrew calendar system, a day begins at sunset. The siren is heard all over the country and lasts for one minute, during which Israelis stop everything (including driving, which stops highways) and stand in silence, commemorating the fallen and showing respect. Many religious Jews say prayers for the souls of the fallen soldiers at this time. The official ceremony to mark the opening of the day takes place at the Western Wall, and the flag of Israel is lowered to half staff.
A two-minute siren is sounded at 11:00 the following morning, which marks the opening of the official memorial ceremonies and private remembrance gatherings at each cemetery where soldiers are buried. Many Israelis visit the resting places of loved ones throughout the day. The day officially draws to a close between 19:00 and 20:00 (7–8 p.m.) with the official ceremony of Israel Independence Day at the national military cemetery on Mount Herzl, when the flag of Israel is returned to full staff.
One of the government-owned television stations screens the names of all the fallen in chronological order (rank, name, hebrew date deceased and secular date) over the course of the day. Names appear for about three seconds each. This has been mentioned in the West Wing episode "Memorial Day".
Scheduling Yom Hazikaron right before Yom Ha-Atzma'ut is intended to remind people of the price paid for independence and of what was achieved with the soldiers' sacrifice. This transition shows the importance of this day among Israelis, most of whom have served in the armed forces or have a connection with people who were killed during their military service.
To avoid the possibility of Sabbath desecration should either of these events take place on Saturday night, both Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzma'ut are observed one or two days earlier (the 3rd and 4th, or the 2nd and 3rd, of Iyar) when the 5th of Iyar falls on a Friday or Saturday (Shabbat). Likewise, when Yom Hazikaron falls on Saturday night/Sunday day, both observances are rescheduled to one day later.
In 2014, the observance began on Sunday 4 May in the evening, continuing through Monday 5 May. In 2015, the observance began on Tuesday 21 April in the evening, continuing through Wednesday 22 April.
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- "Some members of the religious Zionist (national religious) community has [sic] also added special prayers to the prayer service for the evening prayers on Yom Ha-Zikaron." Jewish Virtual Library, op. cit.
- "Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) 2012 in Jerusalem". Go Jerusalem. 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
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...culminating with a torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl at 8 p.m., which ushers in Yom Ha'atzmaut
- "About Yom HaZikaron". Israel Ministry of Tourism. 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
...the practice of commemorating the fallen on this day started in 1951 to mark the connection between Independence Day and the people who died to achieve and maintain this independence.
- Sabag, Asher (2007). "Parshat Yom Ha'atzma'ut". Retrieved 15 April 2013.