Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers May 5, 2014
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 May 5th.
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).
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.