Yom HaZikaron

Yom HaZikaron, known in English as ‘Israel’s Memorial Day’, officially titled Yom HaZikaron LeHalelei Ma’arkhot Yisrael ul’Nifge’ei Pe’ulot HaEivah, translates to ‘Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the Wars of Israel and Victims of Actions of Terrorism’. Established by law in 1963, it serves as Israel’s official day of remembrance. Initially focusing on fallen soldiers, it now also honors civilian victims of terrorism.

What is Yom HaZikaron?

Yom HaZikaron, or Israeli Memorial Day, is a day of national mourning to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the State of Israel and victims of terrorism. It is observed on the day preceding Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, as designated by the Israeli Knesset. This day is marked by a deep sense of reverence and solemnity, with all forms of entertainment ceasing operation. The observance begins and is punctuated by the sounding of two-minute sirens across Israel—one in the evening to signal the start of the day, and another in the morning, leading into the country’s official memorial ceremonies.

History of Yom HaZikaron

In the early years following Israel’s statehood in 1948, memorial services for those lost in the War of Independence were held on Independence Day itself, involving coordinated events at military cemeteries by the IDF and the Ministry of Defense. However, the blending of remembrance with Independence Day festivities sparked a call for a distinct day of memorial by the families of the fallen. Responding to this sentiment and subsequent public discourse, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, doubling as Minister of Defense, formed the “Public Council for Soldiers’ Commemoration” in January 1951. The council’s recommendation to mark the 4th of Iyyar, the eve of Independence Day, as a dedicated memorial day was accepted by the government within the same year.

Inclusion of Diaspora Victims

In a significant move in 2023, the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism introduced a policy to include non-Israeli Jewish victims of antisemitic terror attacks abroad in the annual Yom HaZikaron observances. This policy reflects Israel’s commitment to solidarity with the global Jewish diaspora, broadening the scope of remembrance to encompass Jews worldwide affected by antisemitism.

The Significance of Yom HaZikaron’s Timing

Positioning Yom HaZikaron immediately before Independence Day serves as a profound reminder of the sacrifices required for national freedom and the achievements those sacrifices have enabled. This deliberate scheduling emphasizes the deep connection most Israelis have with the armed forces and the shared experiences of loss and pride, reinforcing the day’s significance within the national consciousness.

Nationwide Observance and Reflection of Yom HaZikaron

The entire nation of Israel pauses in reflection during Yom HaZikaron, mirroring the observance practices of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. When the sirens sound, Israel stands still in a moment of silent tribute, with activities across the country coming to a halt. The first siren at 8 p.m. marks the commencement of Memorial Day, while the second at 11 a.m. leads into public prayer recitations in military cemeteries. Mount Herzl, hosting a national ceremony, becomes a focal point for remembrance, alongside local schools and public institutions organizing memorials to honor their communities’ fallen heroes.

Watch the 2024 Masa Yom HaZikaron Ceremony Livestream on YouTube

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Watch the livestream by on Masa’s Facebook page.

How Is of Yom HaZikaron Observed?

Yom HaZikaron serves as Israel’s day of national remembrance for all military personnel who sacrificed their lives for the establishment of the State of Israel and those who have died in service since. By the time of Yom HaZikaron in 2023, the commemoration honored 24,213 fallen individuals.

Commemoration Begins on Yom HaZikaron Eve

The solemn observance of Yom HaZikaron begins on the eve of the memorial day at 20:00 (8:00 pm), in alignment with the Hebrew calendar where days start at sunset. A nationwide siren sounds for a minute, prompting Israelis everywhere to halt their activities, including traffic on highways, to stand in silent tribute to the fallen. This act of unity and respect sets the tone for the day’s commemoration.

By statute, all entertainment venues close on Yom HaZikaron eve, reflecting the day’s gravity. Television and radio programming shifts focus, with regular broadcasts making way for a 24-hour tribute that scrolls the names and ranks of the fallen soldiers, ensuring their sacrifices are remembered.

Symbolism and Remembrance Activities

Since Israel’s early years, the Red Everlasting flower, known in Hebrew as “Blood of the Maccabees,” has been adopted as the symbol of national remembrance. This emblematic flower is featured at memorial sites and is commonly worn as stickers or pins on clothing throughout the day of observance. In a tradition that has expanded since 2019, the non-profit organization Dam HaMaccabim distributes pins featuring the actual Red Everlasting flower across Israel and the United States, fostering a tangible connection to the memory of those who have given their lives for the country.

Commemoration on Israel Memorial Day

On Israel Memorial Day, a pivotal moment occurs at 11:00 in the morning with the sounding of a two-minute siren, signaling the start of official memorial ceremonies and personal remembrance gatherings at military cemeteries nationwide. This day sees a surge of Israelis visiting the graves of their fallen loved ones, engaging in a national act of remembrance and respect.

Nationwide Acts of Remembrance

The day is distinguished by national memorial services attended by Israel’s highest officials and military leaders. In homes, military bases, schools, synagogues, and public spaces, memorial candles are lit, and flags are flown at half-staff to honor the memory of the fallen. Serving and retired military personnel stand as honor guards at war memorials across the country, with families of the deceased taking part in ceremonies at military burial sites.

Spiritual Reflections

The observance includes prayers for the fallen soldiers, with many traditional and religious Jews reciting specific Psalms and memorial prayers as prescribed by the Israeli rabbinate. The day’s official opening is marked by a ceremony at the Western Wall, underscoring the nation’s collective mourning and reflection.

Yizkor Prayer for Fallen IDF Soldiers and Victims of Terror

Yizkor Prayer in Hebrew

אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים שׁוכֵן בַּמְּרומִים, הַמְצֵא מְנוּחָה נְכונָה עַל כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה, בְּמַעֲלות קְדושִׁים, טְהורִים וְגִבּורִים, כְּזהַר הָרָקִיעַ מַזְהִירִים. לְנִשְׁמות חַיָּלֵי צְבָא הֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל וְלוֹחָמֵי הָמַחְתָרוֹת שֶׁנָּפְלוּ בְּמִלְחֲמות יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְכל הַלּוחֲמִים בְּמַעַרְכות הָעָם שֶׁחֵרְפוּ נַפְשָׁם לָמוּת עַל קְדֻשַּׁת הַשֵּׁם, וּבְעֶזְרַת אֱלהֵי מַעַרְכות יִשְׂרָאֵל הֵבִיאוּ לִתְקוּמַת הָאֻמָּה וְהַמְּדִינָה וְלִגְאֻלַּת הָאָרֶץ וְעִיר הָאֱלהִים וכל אלה שנרצחו בארץ ומחוצה לה בידי המרצחים מארגוני הטרור׃

לָכֵן בַּעַל הָרַחֲמִים יַסְתִּירֵם בְּסֵתֶר כְּנָפָיו לְעולָמִים, וְיִצְרור בִּצְרור הַחַיִּים אֶת נִשְׁמָתָם. ה’ הוּא נַחֲלָתָם, בְּגַן עֵדֶן (תְּהֵא) מְנוּחָתָם, וְיָנוּחוּ בְּשָׁלום עַל מִשְׁכָּבָם, וְיַעַמְדוּ לְגורָלָם לְקֵץ הָיָּמִין, וְנאמַר אָמֵן׃

Yizkor Prayer in English

Merciful God who dwells above, provide a sure rest on the wings of the Divine Presence, amongst the holy and pure and heroic who shine as brightly as the sky, to the souls of the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces and the underground fighters who fell in Israel’s wars, and all the fighters in the nation’s battles who gave their lives to die for the sanctity of Hashem who, with the help of the God of Israel’s battles, brought about the establishment of the nation and the State and the reclamation of the land and the City of God, and all those who were murdered in the Land and outside it by the murderers of the terrorist groups.

Hence, the Merciful One will shade them forever in his wings, and will bind them in the bundle of life. The LORD is their inheritance, the Garden of Eden their resting place, and they will rest in peace on upon their beds, and they will receive their reward at the end of days. So let us say, Amen.

yom hazikaron

Media Commemoration and Closure

Throughout Yom HaZikaron, Israeli television channels dedicate broadcasts to display the names of civilians and soldiers who have perished since the 19th century, maintaining a solemn reminder of the sacrifices made. The transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day begins with a closing ceremony at the national military cemetery on Mount Herzl, culminating as the flag of Israel is respectfully raised back to full staff at sundown, signifying the nation’s shift from remembrance to celebration of independence.

When Is Yom Hazikaron 2024?

Yom HaZikaron 2024 is scheduled to begin at sundown on Sunday, May 12, 2024, and conclude at nightfall on Monday, May 13, 2024.

This timing is consistent with the practice of adjusting the observance dates to prevent any conflicts with the Sabbath. In instances where the 5th of Iyar falls on a Friday or Saturday, Yom HaZikaron and Independence Day are observed earlier to avoid Sabbath desecration. This careful planning ensures that both significant days are commemorated respectfully and without interrupting the Sabbath, reflecting the importance of these observances in the Israeli calendar and the broader Jewish cultural and religious practices.

Join Masa’s English-speaking Yom HaZikaron Ceremony 

Masa Israel Journey’s English-speaking Yom HaZikaron ceremony is a poignant and significant event that serves to bridge cultural and linguistic gaps, allowing English-speaking participants from around the world to connect deeply with Israel’s national day of remembrance. 

The English-speaking Yom HaZikaron ceremony is specifically designed to accommodate those who may not be fluent in Hebrew, providing a space for them to partake in the solemn observance with full understanding and participation. It reflects the organization’s commitment to inclusivity, ensuring that the profound significance of Yom HaZikaron is accessible to all, regardless of language proficiency.

During the ceremony, participants honor the memory of the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism who have sacrificed their lives for the State of Israel. The event includes the recitation of prayers, singing of memorial songs, and sharing of stories and memories of the heroes. It often features speeches by dignitaries, military personnel, and family members of the fallen, providing insights into the personal and national impacts of their sacrifices.

This ceremony not only memorializes those who have lost their lives but also educates and deeply moves participants, fostering a stronger connection to Israel and its history. For many attendees, it’s a transformative experience that highlights the cost of freedom and the importance of remembrance. The Masa Israel Journey’s English-speaking Yom HaZikaron ceremony stands as a testament to the unity and resilience of the Jewish people, transcending language barriers to bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds in solemn remembrance and reflection.


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