Memorial Day (Yom haZikaron)

Psalm 144

Yom haZikaron is the Memorial Day of the fallen soldiers of Israel. It is always the day before the Independence Day. This year it is on April 15th.

The proximity of the memorial day to the Independence Day is "to remind people of the heavy price paid for independence. On this day the entire nation remembers its debt and expresses eternal gratitude to its sons and daughters who gave their lives for the achievement of the country's independence and its continued existence" (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs homepage).

A total of 23,085 men and women have been killed defending the land of Israel since 1860, the year that the first Jewish settlers left the secure walls of Jerusalem to build new Jewish neighborhoods.

In the past year, since Remembrance Day 2012, 92 have been killed in the service of the state. 32 soldiers, 12 members of the security forces, and 43 veterans who died from disabilities that resulted from the wars they fought in.
There are currently over 17,000 families who have lost a family member serving in the IDF, including our current prime minister, whose brother was killed in 1976. Included in that number are nearly 5,000 widows and more than 2,000 orphans.

The number of those killed in terrorist attacks since 1948 stands at 2,493 including 120 foreign citizens. The past year has seen 10 civilians killed in terror attacks. Terror attacks have left 2,848 people orphans, 976 bereaved parents and 799 widows and widowers.

On this day we remember these 25,578 people who died for our country.

In addition to these, 200 non-Israeli Jews have been killed around the world in terrorist and anti-semitic attacks since 1948.

 

On Sunday evening, a siren will sound at 8 pm to commemorate the fallen. Israelis across the country will stand in silence. After the siren, official memorial ceremonies will begin, including the central ceremony.

A second siren blast will sound the next morning at 11:00. There will be ceremonies at all the 44 military cemeteries throughout Israel.

On this day - starting at sunset on April 14th and ending at sunset at April 15th - we remember. We remember that if it weren't for them, we would not be here today. They gave their lives for us.

Being an Israeli is not easy. We grow up knowing that someone has died for us. And that we are expected to do army service and risk our lives for our country. And after our service, we live our lives knowing that people are risking their lives right now in order for us to be able to raise our kids and live where we do, being who we are.

But shouldn't this be true for all Christians, not just Israelis? How often do we comprehend that Jesus actually died for us? How often do we stop and think about that? There are many stories of soldiers who have shielded one another and given their lives for one another in the midst of battles, and this is the day we hear all these amazing heroic stories. But the most heroic story of all is how God the almighty sent his own son to die for us. He actually willingly died so that we might live. May we never belittle that!

On this day of memorial we often recite Psalm 144, as well as the prayer "Yizkor":

May God remember the valiant men and women who braved mortal danger in the days of struggle prior to the establishment of the State of Israel and the soldiers who fell in the wars of Israel.

May the people of Israel cherish them in their memory; let them mourn the splendor of youth, the altruism of valor, the dedication of will and the dignity of self-sacrifice which came to an end on the battlefield.

May the loyal and courageous heroes of freedom and victory be sealed forever within the hearts of all Israel, in this generation and forevermore.