Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzma’ut
This week we observe Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzma’ut (Independence Day). For those of you who have never experienced these consecutive two days in Israel, know that they are qualitatively different from Memorial Day and Independence Day here in the U.S., particularly because they are conjoined.
On Yom Hazikaron, places of entertainment are closed. Radio and television stations play programs about Israel’s wars. An air raid siren plays twice, stopping everyone and everything in their tracks as people get out of their cars and stand at attention in memory of those who died defending Israel. Hardly any Israeli remains untouched by the loss of a loved one or friend who died for their country. As Yom Hazikaron draws to a close, an official ceremony on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem returns the flag to full staff and Yom HaAtzma’ut begins. The beginning of Zion’s redemption and the Jewish people’s return to its land cannot be separated from the memory of those who died fulfilling our 3,000 year-old prayer—to be a free people in our land, the land of Zion, Jerusalem.
Then the entire mood shifts.
When I lived in Israel Yom HaAtzmaut was the most joyous of occasions. The morning prayers, recited so frequently for so many years, felt as if they had been answered in a true and visceral way as I thanked God for the miracle of the modern State of Israel. I sang Hallel with an intensity of emotion. The scent of Bar-b-que wafted throughout Jerusalem while I celebrated in the Garden of Independence in Jerusalem.
These two holidays are not just Israeli holidays. They are Jewish holidays. They recognize the centrality of Israel for us as a people and the necessity to be connected to its existence. So, how do we bring some the uniqueness of observing these days in Israel to our own lives here in the U.S.?
Here are some ideas:
Have an Israeli-themed meal with friends and/or family. Here is a falafel recipe:
Have a Yom HaAtzma’ut seder. Here is one created by the Jewish National Fund
Spread the word about wonderful things Israel has given to our world:
Learn about important Zionist figures: