Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day (In Hebrew: יום הזכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ונפגעי פעולות האיבה) is Israel’s official Memorial Day. On this day, Israel honors the memory of 22,867 soldiers killed in the line of duty and 3,971 civilian terror victims.
It is one of the most important days in Israel’s History: the Israeli Knesset established the fourth of Iyar, the day preceding Yom Ha-Atzmaut, as a Memorial Day. For 24 hours (from sunset to sunset) all places of public entertainment (theaters, cinemas, nightclubs, pubs, etc.) are closed.
The most noticed feature of the day is the sound of the siren that is heard throughout the country twice, during which the entire nation observes a two-minute “standstill” of all traffic and daily activities. The first siren marks the beginning of Memorial Day at 8:00 P.M. and the second is at 11:00 A.M., before the public recitation of prayers in the military cemeteries.
All radio and television stations broadcast programs portraying the lives and heroic deeds of fallen soldiers. Most of the broadcasting time is devoted to Israeli songs that convey the mood of the day.
In the Old Testament (2 Samuel 1-17:27) we can find David’s Lamentations, which describes the death of Saul and Jonathan. In Yom Hazikaron, many people read this Lamentations to describe the soldiers who lost their lives in battle as heroes.
” הַצְּבִי, יִשְׂרָאֵל, עַל-בָּמוֹתֶיךָ, חָלָל: אֵיךְ, נָפְלוּ גִבּוֹרִים. אַל-תַּגִּידוּ בְגַת, אַל-תְּבַשְּׂרוּ בְּחוּצֹת אַשְׁקְלוֹן: פֶּן-תִּשְׂמַחְנָה בְּנוֹת פְּלִשְׁתִּים, פֶּן-תַּעֲלֹזְנָה בְּנוֹת הָעֲרֵלִים. הָרֵי בַגִּלְבֹּעַ, אַל-טַל וְאַל-מָטָר עֲלֵיכֶם–וּשְׂדֵי תְרוּמֹת: כִּי שָׁם נִגְעַל, מָגֵן גִּבּוֹרִים–מָגֵן שָׁאוּל, בְּלִי מָשִׁיחַ בַּשָּׁמֶן. מִדַּם חֲלָלִים, מֵחֵלֶב גִּבּוֹרִים–קֶשֶׁת יְהוֹנָתָן, לֹא נָשׂוֹג אָחוֹר; וְחֶרֶב שָׁאוּל, לֹא תָשׁוּב רֵיקָם. שָׁאוּל וִיהוֹנָתָן, הַנֶּאֱהָבִים וְהַנְּעִימִם בְּחַיֵּיהֶם, וּבְמוֹתָם, לֹא נִפְרָדוּ; מִנְּשָׁרִים קַלּוּ, מֵאֲרָיוֹת גָּבֵרוּ…”
” Thy beauty, O Israel, upon thy high places is slain! How are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain upon you, neither fields of choice fruits; for there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil. From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty. Saul and Jonathan, the lovely and the pleasant in their lives, even in their death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions…”