Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance is the day on which the State of Israel pauses to remember the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice so that the State could come into being and remains the strong and vibrant country that it is today.
What is the story of Yom Hazikaron?
The 4th of Iyar 1948 was the eve of the declaration of the State of Israel. No one in Israel at the time knew what was happening to the south of Jerusalem, in Kfar Etzion. Kfar Etzion sits on the road between Jerusalem and Hebron, a strategic point and one which saw some of the main fightings prior to the declaration of the state of Israel. The battle against the Arab militia. The battle ended with Kfar Etzion falling and the defenders being massacred. This date was the 4th of Iyar, the biggest loss till that date. The next day Ben Gurion declared the state.
In his eulogy for the fallen fighters of Kfar Etzion, Ben Gurion stated, “If Jewish Jerusalem exists, it is first and foremost due to the fighters and settlers of Gush Etzion.” The day of the fall of Kfar Etzion would be known as the Yom Hazikaron for the brave fighters of the Gush and all the soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the State.
Yom Hazikaron was officially adopted by the Knesset and signed into law in 1963
What Happens On Yom Hazikaron?
Yom Hazikaron commences with a siren at 8 pm. Restaurants and places of entertainment are closed, and the night is spent at memorial services around the country. On the radio and television testimonies of the fall are read, who they were, where they fought and when they fell. The music is somber.
In the day, services are held at the military cemeteries. Every grave of every soldier has a flag and a black ribbon and a soldier who stands at attention. At 11am a siren rings throughout the country, the traffic comes to a standstill and people stand at attention to honour the soldiers.
With the setting of the sun, the mood changes to one of great joy as the celebration of Yom Haatzmaut begins.
In 1947 Chaim Weizmann, who would become the first president of Israel, stated that the State would not be handed to the Jewish People on a Silver platter.
The famous poet, Nathan Alterman penned the following poem. I present it in full, as it captures the essence of Yom Hazikaron.
The Silver Platter- מגש הכסף
The Silver Platter By Natan Alterman
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