Israel Observes Memorial and Independence Days Today
Today Israel is observing two holidays: IDF Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron) and Independence Day Eve (Yom Ha’Atzmaut Eve).
IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) Memorial Day officially began Tuesday evening and will end on Wednesday evening. IDF Memorial Day is marked by the sounding of a siren, an official ceremony, torch-lighting and other activities designed to honor and commemorate those who have lost their lives. Israel’s national anthem, the Hatikvah is also sung.
A statement on the website of Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, describes why Israelis honor those lost on this day. It says: “Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers is aimed at unifying the citizens of Israel with the memory of the state's fallen soldiers, whose sacrifice enabled Israel's existence. This day is marked each year on the 4th of the Hebrew month of Iyar or in proximity to that date, and it is always marked one day before Independence Day, emphasizing and symbolizing the connection between the fallen and their devotion, and with the establishment of the State of Israel.”
The day honors others lost as well. According to the Knesset, the day is set aside “also in commemoration for deceased members of the Israeli Police, the General Security Service, and the Mossad.” Mossad is Israel’s intelligence and counterterrorism agency.
In his official address at the Memorial Day ceremony on Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin, remembered the over 23,000 lost. He said:
“Last year, as I stood in front of you, dear beloved families, I took a moment and made a wish, told of a dream. I prayed that maybe, from that Memorial Day to this one, I would not have to pay any more visits to families whose entire lives had just been shattered around them. I prayed that maybe this year, we would stand here, finally, with no new pain. But this year too, reality knocked at our door. This year, once again, I met talented, funny, kind boys and girls, filled with loving and promise. Each and every one of them a treasure. And this year too, I got to know them too late — when they were already gone.”
He also described Israel’s dislike for like war. “We do not go into battle hungry for war, but with the desire for peace, with a lust for life and a hatred of death,” he said.
In closing, Rivlin said: “may the memory of our loved and cherished sons and daughters be engraved on our hearts forever.”
The solemn ceremonies of Memorial Day yesterday give way to Independence Day celebrations across the country today. Independence Day begins on Wednesday evening and ends on Thursday evening. It marks the day Israel declared its independence and first became a nation in 1948. A day of immense celebration, it is met with more official ceremonies and joyous festivities. This year, 2016 marks Israel’s 68th birthday.
There are many events scheduled today including: another official ceremony, fireworks, parties and prayers at the Western Wall.