What is Yom HaZikaron?

Image: An IDF officer places Israeli flags on the graves of IDF soldiers. (Source: Israel Defense Forces)

As I write this, it is nighttime in California on Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day.

It normally falls on the 4th of Iyyar. It’s very quiet, with all places of entertainment closed. Radio and TV play programming honoring Israel’s dead, both those have died in defense of the State of Israel and those who have died in acts of terror.

Two loud sirens sound. The first marks the beginning of the day (at sundown, like all other Jewish days). The second one, at 11 am, marks a two minute “moment of silence” at which all Israelis stop what they are doing and stand at attention. All traffic on the highways stops, all conversations stop, everything. It is solemn and somewhat eerie.

Every family has dead to mourn on Yom HaZikaron, because Israel is a small country. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, 23,741 people have died in its defense or in acts of terror.

If you want to understand Israel and Israelis, Yom HaZikaron is a key.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at http://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

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