Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yom Hazikaron (Originally written for EtsyCHAI blog)

Yom Hazikaron – the Israeli Day of Remembrance
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The Israeli Day of Remembrance, Yom Hazikaron (the Remembrance) is observed this year on Sunday, April 18 – Monday, April 19.

Many countries have a day of national remembrance - Veterans Day, Poppy Day, Armistice Day, and others: and all of them are an inherent part of the culture of the country remembering. They remind people of their history - how they got to where they are now - and those who helped them get there. They are days to remember, but as time passes it often becomes more of a day to celebrate the freedom that was so hard won.

Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli day of remembrance for the fallen and for victims of terror is a national day of mourning on a grand scale. From the moment that the flag over the military cemetery at Har Hertzel is lowered, until it is raised again the following evening, the country takes on this feeling of waiting for something.

In a country with a mostly mandatory draft, no one is more than a step or two removed from knowing a soldier. In a country where everyone can be a target, no one is more than a step or two from knowing a victim. In a country fraught with conflict, we are surrounded by places people died to protect.

How we remember is mandated for us - and because it is almost everywhere you go everyone participates. Twice in 24 hours the air raid sirens sound - but no one goes running for cover. The world stops. There is no noise save for the shrill wail from overhead: A sound long associated with pain and fear.

Cars stop where they are. Cabbies stand silently by their doors. Cashiers stop arguing. Vendors stop haggling. Children stop playing.

As a country we are known as augmentative, rude and segmented, but for 2 minutes, one day a year, we are visibly united in our grief. Thinking about those no longer with us to celebrate the imminent Yom Ha'Atzmaute, Israeli Independence Day, a day of celebration and BBQ and spending the day outdoors in the gorgeous countryside, so that we could do so.

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