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 have given their lives in defense of the State of Israel. The memorial observance begins at sundown with the sounding of sirens and one minute of silence on the eve of Yom Hazikaron.
On the following morning, 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 sounds 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.” (1)
The Red Everlasting (Helichrysum sanguineum)—like the poppies of Flanders Fields—is a commemorative emblem of the fallen. Locals call the little flower Dam HaMacabim, which translated 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 a 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.
For those who have never participated in local observances, one must experience the collective anguish over the loss of each life to appreciate what our Jewish friends endure. Even as this post was being updated there was yet another senseless terrorist car ramming where seven people were wounded. Every year, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs posts the most recent statistics.
A total of 24,213 men, women and children have been killed in terrorist attacks and in defense of the Land of Israel since 1860, the year that the first Jewish settlers left the secure walls of Jerusalem to build new Jewish neighborhoods. Since last Memorial Day, 59 new names have [sic] added to the roster of those who died defending the country. Another 86 disabled veterans died due to complications from injuries sustained during their service.
The number of civilian terror victims who perished in attacks totals 4,255. (2)
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 Israel’s most courageous.
1) “Israel Marks Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 24 April 2023.
2) Ibid. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 24 April 2023.
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 2023 (updated), 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.