Although Israel has begun to take its first small steps towards returning back to normal life following weeks of battling the coronavirus’ infectious wave, things are still far from being normal, leaving many Israelis wondering how dramatically different this year’s Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut will be in comparison to previous years. It is already presumed that the festivities will be significantly quieter this year as concerts, ceremonies, and observances have been canceled throughout the country, public gatherings are still restricted and people remain under instruction to stay at home.
For a country that places so much emphasis on its national pride and has endured weeks cooped up indoors desperate for freedom, the reality of this situation has been a difficult pill for many to swallow, particularly for the thousands of Israelis who were looking forward to participating in the celebrations. The knowledge that the festivities can’t go on as planned has come as a major disappointment given how Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s national Remembrance Day, and Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Day of Independence, are such important dates in the Israeli calendar.
These two national holidays are celebrated to honor Israel’s fallen soldiers and terror victims and to commemorate the establishment of the State of Israel respectively and they are held in the highest esteem. As with Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), a siren is blown throughout Israel on Yom HaZikaron as a beautiful tribute to everyone who lost their lives for the State of Israel. While this siren sounds, all of Israel stops and stands in silence to show their respect to Israel’s fallen heroes. From ordinary citizens to high-ranking military and government officials, many Israelis observe Yom HaZikaron with moving memorial services, both private and public, to honor the legacies of those who died and give them the recognition they deserve before the festive celebrations of Yom Haatzmaut start.
Although it may seem odd that a solemn day like Yom HaZikaron is immediately followed by a joyous celebration like Yom Haatzmaut, this is no accident. The decision to schedule Yom HaZikaron the day before Yom Haatzmaut was made intentionally in order to remind people of the great sacrifice that was paid by Israel’s soldiers and civilians. If not for them, Israel’s modern, thriving, and independent State wouldn’t exist.
That is why under normal circumstances; when the sunset falls on Yom HaZikaron and the transition to Yom Haatzmaut begins, you can expect that by the next morning, the air will be buzzing with enthusiasm from people eager to participate in their local festivities. Whereas Yom HaZikaron is a somber and serious holiday, Yom Haatzmaut is the total opposite. Israel’s Independence Day is a day usually marked by parades, picnics, barbeques, and blue-and-white flags waving proudly from windows, cars, and balconies. Many people even dress up in blue and white clothing to show off their patriotic pride.
However, this year will obviously be different. There will be no official public memorial services, no national award ceremonies, no parades or sold-out concerts. Even Israel’s annual flyover airshow has been canceled, though a smaller airshow will take place over Israel’s hospitals to demonstrate solidarity with our heroic medical workers. Nevertheless, many determined Israelis are working hard to come up with creative ways to remain connected and celebrate Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut to the fullest in spite of safety restrictions. Around the country, people are busing themselves by hanging up last year’s Independence Day decorations, getting their grills ready, and preparing to tune into live broadcasted programs made especially for the current circumstances. It is these great lengths that Israel goes through to provide hope and spread unity that gives people the optimism that this terrible pandemic is just another hardship we can overcome together. Thanks to the strength, resilience, and compassion embodied by the people of Israel, we can remember that as with everything else, this too shall pass, and one day soon, we will hopefully see an end to this crisis!
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