Yom Hazikaron – A reflection by Board Member Ofer Rosenblat

On Tuesday 10 May at 20:00 Israel stands still. A siren introduces a national day of grief; shops remain closed for the following day, highways stand still.
” Yom Hasikaron“, „The Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism” is an official day where Israel is mourns those that fell wearing the Israeli Defense Force’s uniform and those who became victims of the ongoing terror.
The day exemplifies the Israeli narrative as it was set the day before Yom Ha’Atzmaut – Israel’s independence day. Before the celebrations everyone takes a moment to remember and to honor those people who sacrificed their lives for our country, to this day the number stands on 23,447 victims. The National memorial services are held in the presence of Israel’s top leadership and military personnel.

Serving in the army or in civil service is an obligation of every citizen of Israel. This period is a tough and challenging experience that stretches one’s limits to the maximum. However, the role of the army and civil service is part of who we are as Israelis.
Not only from an individual perspective but also from the perspective of the society as a whole. The individual acquires vital skills that help succeeding in life and the country gains more experienced and responsible inhabitants that later on in their civil life bring the country forward. People from every religious denomination, from every political background, rich and poor, regardless of gender serve together in the army, which is one of the reasons for why it is considered to be the melting pot of Israeli society.

Since Israel is a very small country almost every person has either a direct or indirect relation to a fallen solider or a victim of terror. For me Yom Hasikaron is a special day. I remember how I looked at the graduates from my high school, who annually joined us for the ceremonies and jointly commemorated our former class-mates. I looked at them but did not have a full understanding of what it means to be a soldier on Yom Hasikron. Eventually I joined the army and came to visit my school for the ceremony myself. What I felt back then is something that is hard to describe, but I felt honored to stand there as a combat soldier. Later on, I continued to the ceremony in the local cemetery where I saw how many people were sharing the pain of this one special day. Only then I understood what it means to be a soldier on Yom Hazikaron.

Slowly the sunsets and the atmosphere changes, happiness and celebration replace the sadness and grief, Yom Ha’atzmaut (our Independence Day) approaches.

This day is a unique day in Israeli society, for me as a student who live abroad this day means remembering where I am coming from and all those who gave their lives for the idea of Jewish self-determination. Let’s hope that the numbers won’t get any higher and that concepts of mutual respect and peace will grow and prosper!