Israel the History

Memory Of Our Fallen: A Nation Unites

Tags: Yom HaZikaron, Soldiers and Defense, Elana Heideman

By Dr. Elana Yael Heideman

Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, honors all of her fallen soldiers since 1860, the year the first Jewish settlers left the secure walls of Jerusalem to build new Jewish neighborhoods.

Not only does this include men and women who have fought in the wars to achieve our independence, to provide security for our citizens and to protect our borders, but victims of terror attacks are also a part of the national memory to which this day is dedicated.

Beginning at sundown on the 4th of Iyar, life stands still as the meaningfulness of memory takes over the nation.

At 8pm, a siren is heard through the entire State of Israel. All public entertainment in Israel is shut down, and radio and television play music and show ceremonial programs, family films, or documentaries in honor of those who have given their lives for our one and only Jewish country, portraying the lives and heroic deeds of our brave sons and daughers of Israel.

A second siren at 11am the following morning precedes the public recitation of prayers in the military cemeteries. All traffic stops, people stand wherever they might be at that moment, and for 2 minutes the entire country pays tribute in silence to those lost in the fight for our country.

Services personal and communal are held throughout the country, and a national ceremony is held at Har Herzl in Jerusalem, the National Military Cemetery. While Yom Hazikaron is part of our national culture and not a religious commemoration, the siren inspires awe and sanctity no less than any traditional Jewish ceremony.

Kotel Flag at Half Mast

As the flags fly at half mast, communities gather together in memory of their fallen citizens, high schools and military bases to name their students and soldiers that embody the heroism of Israel for each generation to remember. Nearly every high school in Israel has a "memorial corner" with the photos of the school graduates who fell in battle or while on military duty. Today, all of Israel sets aside differences to remember with pride those who serve to protect us.

When Israel declared independence in 1948 it had 873,000 people. There are more then 8 times that amount today. 75.5% are Jewish and 69% of Israelis were born in Israel.

This day, we remember fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. In Israel, it is customary to gather with family, to hear the stories of the fallen from every walk of life, from so many nations int he world, who came to serve here in the Jewish homeland.

One Family remembers

Ending at sundown, the somber, reflective mood of Yom Hazikaron gives way to the celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut, a transition which emphasizes the lasting tie between the sacrifice of the country's fallen and the continued existence of a vibrant and dynamic State of Israel.

Take a closer look at the lives of these soldiers, their families and the dignity bestowed them - on this powerful day, we honor the sacrifice that the men and women who are Citizens of Israel make for the continued existence of our beloved Jewish State.

While the list of fallen soldiers becomes longer every year, the importance of the need to fight for our right to be recognized is never forgotten and has become ever more important.

Each year, we all yearn for the day when this sacrifice will no longer be necessary, when Israel’s existence will not be questioned, when our history will not be denied, when our borders will be secure, and when the world will accept the meaningfulness and importance of a Jewish State in our ancient Jewish homeland.

Until that day, we will forever protect the memory of our soldiers and citizens who have fallen in battle or have been murdered by the hands of the enemy.


Light A Flame Of Remembrance

We light this remembrance torch as a symbol, to honor all the heroes and heroines of our generation; the partisan groups, the ghetto fighters and the underground defenders, the innocent victims of terror attacks, and those who fought in the wars to defend the State of Israel since its establishment.


As a nation, we can unite in our commitment to the future of Israel and the security of our sons and daughters who serve to protect her.

He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- may He bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Forces, who stand guard over our land and the cities of our God, from the border of the Lebanon to the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the Aravah, on the land, in the air, and on the sea. May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them.

May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighters from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavor. May He lead our enemies under our soldiers’ sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory. And may there be fulfilled for them the verse: For it is the Lord your God, Who goes with you to battle your enemies for you to save you.
Now let us respond: Amen.


Nathan Alterman put into words the tragic understanding of the sacrifices that everyone understood would have to be made for independence.

And the land grows still, the red eye of the sky slowly dimming over smoking frontiers
As the nation arises, Torn at heart but breathing,
To receive its miracle, the only miracle
As the ceremony draws near, it will rise,
standing erect in the moonlight in terror and joy
When across from it will step out a youth and a lass and slowly march toward the nation
Dressed in battle gear, dirty,
Shoes heavy with grime, they ascend the path quietly
To change garb, to wipe their brow
They have not yet found time.
Still bone weary from days and from nights in the field
Full of endless fatigue and unrested,
Yet the dew of their youth.
Is still seen on their head
Thus they stand at attention, giving no sign of life or death
Then a nation in tears and amazement will ask: "Who are you?"
And they will answer quietly, "We Are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given."
Thus they will say
and fall back in shadows
And the rest will be told In the chronicles of Israel

How are you connecting to Israel on Yom HaZikaron?

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About the Author

Dr.  Elana Yael Heideman
Dr. Elana Yael Heideman, Executive Director of The Israel Forever Foundation, is a dynamic and passionate educator who works creatively and collaboratively in developing content and programming to deepen and activate the personal connection to Israel for Diaspora Jews. Elana’s extensive experience in public speaking, educational consulting and analytic research and writing has served to advance her vision of Israel-inspired Jewish identity that incorporates the relevance of the Holocaust, Antisemitism and Zionism to contemporary issues faced throughout the Jewish world in a continuous effort to facilitate dialogue and build bridges between the past, present and future.

Tags: Yom HaZikaron, Soldiers and Defense, Elana Heideman