Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism
This year on Yom HaZikaron—Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism—Israelis will again stand in silence to honor the memory of brave men and women who’ve given their lives in defense of the State of Israel. The memorial observance begins at sundown on April 27th with the sounding of sirens and one minute of silence on the eve of Yom Hazikaron. (1)
At 11:00 A.M. on the following morning, which is the 28th of April this year, air raid sirens prompt two minutes of silence. Simultaneously, flags are lowered to half-staff. All activity ceases. Traffic on roadways comes to a standstill.
A second siren will sound prior to the National Memorial Ceremony on Mount Herzl and will be broadcast live around the planet. A passage from the Psalms is read in honor of the soldiers who gave their lives defending the State of Israel.
“Sing a hymn to the Lord, who reigns in Zion, declare His deeds among the peoples. For He does not ignore the cry of the afflicted; He who requites bloodshed is mindful of them” (Ps. 9:12-13, JPS Tanakh).
Yom HaZikaron is described by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as “a day of collective and personal anguish mingled with honor for the fallen.” (2)
The Red Everlasting (Helichrysum sanguineum)—like the poppies of Flanders Fields—is an emblem of the fallen. Locals call the little flower Dam HaMacabim, which means the “blood of the Maccabees.” Unlike others that quickly bloom and fade, the small pine cone-shaped flower retains a blood-red color for five or six weeks. Some suggest the flowers only grow where the blood of brave souls has been spilled in Israel’s defense.
As the sun sets on Yom HaZikaron, a central Remembrance Torch Lighting takes place at Mount Herzl cemetery where Zionist visionary Theodore Herzl, Israeli dignitaries and fallen soldiers are buried. It is customary for citizens from all walks of life to light twelve torches representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel. As the torches are set ablaze, the fallen are remembered with the following tribute:
“We light this remembrance torch as a symbol, to honor all the heroes and heroines; the partisan groups, the ghetto fighters and the underground defenders, the innocent victims of terror attacks, and those who fought in the wars to defend the State of Israel since its establishment, in 1948.”
This year because of the COVID-19 restrictions, the IDF will hold a candlelight vigil in 53 cemeteries and a military cantor will recite a traditional prayer called the Kaddish.
That Yom HaZikaron is symbolically linked to the celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) 24 hours later is no coincidence. The proximity of the two observances underscores the resolute courage of the Jewish people who now enjoy freedom rebirthed through sacrifice of 23,816 soldiers and 3,153 victims of terrorism. (3)
1) Today, my wife and I participated in the Masa Israel Journey Memorial Day Ceremony at the Western Wall via livestream from Jerusalem that brought people together around the globe in spite of COVID-19.
2) “Israel Marks Memorial Day for the Fallen Soliders and Victims of Terrorism,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 27 April 2020.
1) Dam Hamacabim. (Photo credit: By Ester Inbar/commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:ST./ Wikimedia/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
2) The Remembrance Torch Shines in the Western Wall Plaza. (Photo credit: By RonAlmog from Israel (ישראל) (אבוקת הזיכרון)/[CC BY 2.0]/Wikimedia/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
Copyright © Charles E. McCracken 2020, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.