Every year Yom HaZikaron takes places on the fourth of Iyar, which this year is April 19th. Also known as Israel Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron is a time to remember all those who lost their lives in struggle for Israeli independence as well as the soldiers who have died while serving in Israel's armed forces. Victims of terrorist acts are also remembered.
Unlike Memorial Day in the United States, Yom HaZikaron is a somber holiday. From the moment it begins at sundown on the first day until sundown the next day, all places of entertainment are closed. Radio and television stations devote air time to patriotic music or programs honoring fallen soldiers. Many high schools have a special memorial corner where photos of graduates who died during military duty or in terrorist acts are displayed. At the Western Wall, the Israeli flag is lowered to half-mast.
Just as on Yom HaShoah, the air-raid siren plays an important role in Yom HaZikaron. After sundown on the first day, at 8:00PM, a siren sounds for one minute and everyone in the nation comes to a standstill. Traffic stops. Conversations go silent. People stand motionless in the streets. The second siren sounds for two minutes the next day at 11:00AM, after which prayers are said in all the military cemeteries.
The day after YomHaZikaron is Israeli Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzmaut) and it's a powerful statement that before Israeli independence is celebrated the country first remembers all those who have fallen during its struggle for freedom. Outside of Israel the two days are often observed together, with a memorial service preceding the beginning of Independence Day festivities.
How does your community observe Yom HaZikaron? How do you?