IsraelYom Hazikaron / Yom Haatzmaut

Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) in Israel and America

armon monument

Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron) is a very different experience in Israel than in America.  In America, Memorial Day is a time to remember soldiers who died thousands of miles away, defending “liberty” or “America’s strategic interests.”  The photo at left is of a memorial I passed on my morning run today; it is dedicated to soldiers who died at that spot, defending my neighborhood.  

The monument includes the names of nine soldiers killed in the area during the battle in June 1967; it says it is dedicated to the soldiers who fell in the battle for Armon Hanatziv (the neighborhood also known as East Talpiot), that brought about the way for the liberation of Jerusalem and the reunification of the city.

That’s just one of the many things that makes it a much more meaningful, poignant, and personal holiday here.  

Here are a few of other differences between Memorial Day in Israel and Memorial Day in America:

In America, kids have a day off and go camping, to the mall, the beach, etc.

In Israel, kids go to a tekes (ceremony), either at their school or some other venue; one daughter this morning was at Mt. Herzl, Israel’s national military cemetery with her class.


In America, very few people know anyone who lost a close friend or family member defending the country.


Is Israel, everyone knows someone who lost a loved one defending the country. 

In America, listening to the radio the only way you know it’s Memorial Day is because of the sales being advertised.


In Israel the radio stations all play music appropriate to the day.

In America it would be easy to miss the fact that it’s Memorial Day.

In Israel you can’t miss the fact that it’s Memorial Day: at 8pm and at 11am a siren goes off.  This morning I stood in my office on the 16th floor and watched traffic all around come to a stop with the drivers respectfully standing by their cars.

The other big difference between Memorial Day in Israel and Memorial Day in America is that here in Israel Memorial Day is immediately followed by Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day.  We celebrate Independence Day much as it is celebrated in the US: a day off, family outings, fireworks. Tonight we’ll be joining friends for a bar-b-que.  But by juxtaposing Memorial Day and Independence Day we do two things: 1) we are reminded of the price of the freedom we are enjoying; and 2) we are reminded that those who died did not die in vain.

May the day come soon when violence and bloodshed cease and we live in peace with all of our neighbors.

Reb Barry

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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