Israel's Remembrance Day (Yom Hazikaron) - May 11

Israel Remembrance Day, called Yom Hazikaron in Hebrew, is Israel’s official day of remembrance for fallen soldiers of Israel and victims of terrorism. It begins at sun down and tonight at 8 PM sirens will sound. This ceremony which includes prayers, speeches, and the lighting of a memorial torch will be broadcast live also on Israeli television channels. Since 1948, 23,447 soldiers have lost their lives defending Israel. At the Western Wall there will be a lighting of a memorial torch and candles will be lit as bereaved families gather to pay respect for soldiers who lost their lives. Tomorrow at 11 AM at monuments around the city, families of fallen soldiers will also gather. The Prime Minister of Israel, ministers and the mayor of Jerusalem will be present as people gather to sing songs and pay tribute to soldiers who lost their lives. Flags will fly half-mast, flags line some of the major streets and others can be seen on cars and buildings around the city. Ceremonies on Wednesday will also be attended by Israel's President, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Force, the major general, the chief rabbi of the IDF, the rabbi of the Western Wall, top officers and commanders, the mayor of Jerusalem and large audiences will gather all around the city. Yom Hazikaron falls exactly one week after Holocaust Remembrance Day and considering the fact that casualties are very close to home in this small country, this day is extremely solemn. Nearly every week we hear about stabbings of soldiers guarding the Old City, the Dome of the Rock, and other places in Jerusalem. Places of entertainment, movie theaters and some restaurants will be closed. As is often customary in Judaism, Jews remember the heartbreak with the joy. After a somber day people will celebrate with parties in the evening of May 11. Yom Hazikaron is marked on the fourth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. This year it is commemorated from the evening of Tuesday, May 10, 2016 until the evening of Wednesday, May 11 when Independence Day begins. Families of fallen soldiers will also visit their graves and within the Jewish faith, it is customary to leave a small stone on the grave. The visitor positions the stone on the grave using his or her left hand. Placing a stone on the grave serves as a sign to others that someone has visited the grave. Stones are fitting symbols of the lasting presence of the deceased’s life and memory. This tradition may trace back to the Biblical times when graves were simply marked with small stone mounds. Since gravestones were not utilized during this period, the mounds helped mark the location of the grave. Therefore, the act of placing small stones on graves served as a way to preserve the grave-site so that as time passed, it could be found again. The Crosses of Night Author unknown Rising before me, are the graves . . . like the stars embracing the light, while reflecting the moon. The fields, vast and silent, never ending, the valiant of those who had fallen, never knowing how far. Some names forgotten and some never known . . . crosses that grow from the wet grass below me. I have lost count as my eyes seek horizons reflecting on lives of the soldiers, unknown. Deeply I'm falling without knowing how far into the depths of the fields that have drawn me; into reflection and into the questions tossed into the sky, without answers to why. My eyes can't believe all the sadness before me; I have lost count and my heart seeks horizons. Reflecting the reason, seeking answers, unknown.