Festivals In The Omer

Israeli flag, flag of Israel

Passover is over and we have moved into one of the more serious periods of the Jewish calendar. Named the Omer, it is an official countdown of the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost), the holiday on which we celebrate receiving the Torah from God on Mount Sinai.

The seven weeks of the Omer are some of the busiest in our year. The Omer is packed with significant dates, both joyful and tragic. Here’s the lowdown of each event and what it means:

Yom HaShoah

Official Name: יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה –Yom Hazikaron laShoah velaGvura – Day of Memorial for the Holocaust and Resistance. This is the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day.

Date: 27th Nissan. This is two weeks after the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Observance: At sundown, a state ceremony is held in Yad Vashem. Candles are lit, the flag is lowered, the Prime Minister and President speak, and special prayers are recited. During the day, a siren blasts across the country for a two-minute silence.

Yom HaZikaron

Officially Name: יוֹם הזִּכָּרוֹן לַחֲלָלֵי מַעֲרָכוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל וּלְנִפְגְעֵי פְעוּלוֹת הָאֵיבָה – Yom HaZikaron leChalalei Ma’arachot Yisrael veNifga’ei Peulot haEver – Day of Memorial for Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism

Date: 4th Iyar, the day before Independence Day

Observance: This is a national day of mourning for those who gave their lives to protect Israel and those who were murdered in heinous acts of terror. At night, businesses, stores, and entertainment venues are closed by law. During the day, an official memorial ceremony is held on Mount Herzl, the country’s military cemetery at which the State’s leaders speak and prayers are said. A soldier is stationed at the grave of every fallen fighter and terror victim, and a two-minute country-wide silence is held in memoriam.

Yom Ha’Atzmaut

Official Name: יום העצמאות – Yom Ha’Atzmaut – Independence Day

Date: 5th Iyar (the anniversary of the declaration of independence)

Observance: We celebrate the day on which Israel officially became an independent country. It is a national holiday in Israel, and many people celebrate with large parties and concerts held in the evening and hikes and barbecues throughout the day. Some religious Jews add the celebratory Hallel service to their daily prayers.

Lag BaOmer

Official Name: ל״ג בעומר‎ – Lag BaOmer – 33rd day of the Omer

Date: 18th Iyar

Observance: This day marks the anniversary of Shimon Bar Yochai, a sage who revealed the Zohar (Kabbalah) to the world. It is also the day on which the Omer’s restrictions (shaving, live music, weddings etc) are lifted. It is celebrated with bonfires. Kids play with bows and arrows and weddings are commonly scheduled.

Yom Yerushalayim

Official Name: יום ירושלים – Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day

Date: 28th Iyar

Observance: Yom Yerushalayim commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli sovereignty over the Old City. It is marked with State-sponsored street parties, concerts and marches through the city to the Western Wall.