By: Dr Ofelia Averack
Starting the evening of April 17th, through the 18th, Yom HaShoah– whose complete name is “Yom HaShoah Ve-Hagevurah”— literally translates as the “Day of (remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism.” It is marked on the 27th day in the month of Nisan because it is close to the date of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. At 10.00 am, all Israel comes to a stop when a siren is sounded around the country for two minutes. Cars on the highways stop and drivers and passengers get out and mark the two minutes.
The Knesset enacted the Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day Law in April of 1959, and on May 5 that year some 2,500 people, gathered at the Ghetto Fighter’s Kibbutz, Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot in the western Galilee for a commemoration of the first Yom HaShoah
Yom HaShoah is a solemn time to be in Israel. The law prohibits places of public entertainment from being open either on the evening before or day of Yom HaShoah.
Most cultural institutions in Israel hold special events during Yom HaShoah. Our commemoration of this solemn day will be Tuesday, April 18th, 1pm ET. As Elie Wiesel of blessed memory said, “To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time”.
Yom HaZikaron– April 24-25, 2023 this year, literally means “day of remembrance”. Yom Hazikaron, is a day of collective and personal anguish mingled with honor for the fallen. Yom HaZikaron observance has evolved since 1948. The ceremonies preformed are not necessarily religious but always sanctified. The observance is very dramatic, with sirens going off for 2 minutes in the evening at the beginning of Yom Hazikaron, and again in the morning just before the ceremonies at military cemeteries take place. People stop what they are doing and stand at attention; traffic stops and everyone exits their vehicles to stand in respectful silence. Entertainment venues, such as bars and theaters close, and generally the mood is somber.
The day’s full name is Yom HaZikaron LeHaleleiMa’arkhot Yisrael ul’Nifge’ei Pe’ulot HaEivah, meaning ‘Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the Wars of Israel and Victims of Actions of Terrorism’ and is Israel’s official remembrance day, enacted into law in 1963, to be on the date 4 Iyar on the Hebrew calendar. On this day we mourn and remember our fallen soldiers and all lives lost by terror. Yom HaZikaron, begins with a siren at 8:00 in the evening. As soon as the siren is heard, Israeli citizens stop whatever they’re doing, wherever they are, and stand firm to honor those they’ve lost.
Yom Ha Atzma’ut– April 25-26, 2023 At sundown, when Yom HaZikaron ends, Yom HaAtzma’ut, Independence Day begins, and the mood shifts to the joy of celebrating the existence of the Jewish state. The mourning and celebrations are intense, reflecting the reality of Jewish and Israeli history.
The official “switch” from Yom HaZikaron, to Yom Ha’atzmaut takes place a few minutes after sundown, with a ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery in which the national flag is raised from half-staff to the top of the pole. Usually, the president of Israel will deliver a speech of congratulations while soldiers representing all the various branches and units of the Israel Defense Forces parade with their flags. This year, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the state of Israel, there will be numerous delegations from all over the world in Israel as the World Zionist Congress is meeting in Jerusalem from April 19 until the 21st.
These “Yomim” are three of the holidays added to the Jewish calendar since the creation of the State of Israel.
The fourth is Yom Yerushalayim– 28 Iyar, the newest holiday on the Hebrew calendar, this year May 18-19, 2023, marking the 1967 reunification of Israel’s historic national capital- Jerusalem. The status of Yom Yerushalayim in Jewish religious life is a bit ambiguous But following the model of Yom Ha’atzmaut, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel decided that this day should also be marked with the recitation of Hallel . As such a young holiday, there are still not many customs or traditions that have been institutionalized. Yom Yerushalayim will include presentations and discussions with Yossi Klein Halevi, Isabel Kirshner and Hen Mazzigdiscussing “Israel at 75- Successes and Challenges”.
These are the commemorations and celebrations, of the 4 “Yomim”.