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Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut

From Remembrance to independence 2016v4_lower res for websit

May 11th, 2016 (איר 4), marks Yom Hazikaron (יום הזיכרון), Israel's Day of Memorial, which honors 23,320 fallen Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and 2,538 victims of terrorist attacks. The day is observed on the fourth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, immediately preceding Israel's Independence Day, Yom Ha'atzmaut (יום העצמאות), to remind people of the heavy price paid for independence.

On Yom Hazikaron the entire nation of Israel remembers their debt and expresses eternal gratitude to her sons and daughters who gave their lives for the achievement of the country's independence and its continued existence. It is a day of collective and personal grief mingled with awe and honor for the fallen. In Israel, Yom Hazikaron commences countrywide with the sound of sirens proclaiming two minutes of silence (two sirens are heard, one at 8:00 pm and the second the following morning at 11:00 am) during which all activity, including traffic, ceases. Flags are flown at half-mast and memorial ceremonies are held throughout the country, the memorial prayer, Yizkor, is cited, restaurants, cafes and movie theatres are shut down on the eve of Yom Hazikaron, special documentaries are broadcasted on television and somber national songs are played on all radio stations.

Ending at sundown, the somber, reflective mood of Yom Hazikaron gives way to the celebration of Yom Ha'atzmaut, a transition which emphasizes the lasting tie between the sacrifice of the fallen and the continued existence of a vibrant and dynamic state of Israel.

The decision to commemorate the fallen soldiers the day before the day of independence was not an easy one but very symbolic. On this day Israel remembers those who gave up their lives so that Israel could celebrate our independence peacefully. In one of the transition ceremonies between Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut, David Ben Gurion said: ”There is only one drop of consolation: their lives and deaths weren’t for nothing, and as long as Am Yisrael is alive, he will carry their memory in his heart forever.” May the memories of the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism be a blessing.

With the establishment of the State of Israel, on May 14th, 1948, Jewish independence lost two thousand years earlier was restored. Israel's Independence Day is a celebration of the renewal of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel, the birthplace of the Jewish people. The new state adopted Hebrew as a national language, established the IDF as its armed force, determined the political structure, including the Knesset (The Parliament), and on May 11th, 1949, took its seat as the 59th member of the United Nations. Israel is home to some of the holiest religious sites of the three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), and its inhabitants enjoy the democratic rights delineated in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel and the Basic Laws.

On the eve of Independence Day, it is a tradition to gather in the city squares, wave Israeli flags, and take part in festive events under a full lit sky from the evening's fireworks. The following day is a day of vacation, and Israelis celebrate festively with picnics, barbecues, family gatherings and nature trips. It is also common practice to decorate balconies, car windows, store fronts and shops with Israeli flags.

Israel’s official Independence Day ceremony is held every year at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem. This event includes a speech by the Speaker of the Knesset and artistic performances. Click here to learn more about this year's program.

As the sun sets and the grief turns into joy, as we celebrate Israel’s Independence, the JCRC would like to wish you all Chag Ha’atzmaut Sameach!

Happy 68th Independence Day Israel!

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