Yom Hazikaron – For Those We Mourn & Celebrate

By Deena Levenstein

Israel Memorial Day begins…

Starting this evening, Israel is in a day of mourning for the people who were killed in battle over the State of Israel or in terror attacks. Tonight and tomorrow is Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism.

Israel Memorial Day is a sad and solemn day personally – since almost everyone knows people who have been killed in the army or in terrorist attacks – and nationally. It is the day to show respect, thanks and remembrance for those who gave their lives for us to be here. Many establishments are closed, radio stations play melancholy music and the TV channels show documentaries with the stories of individuals who were killed serving in the Israeli army.

There is a very touching initiative which I’ve joined for a couple of years where people visit soldiers who have no one to remember them. Most of these soldiers were Holocaust survivors who came with no one to Israel in search of a new life and died in the War of Independence in 1948.

One of the soldiers I have visited as part of this project is Akiva Levy.

Touring Israel - Akiva Levy buried in a mass grave of Gush Etzion (photo by Deena Levenstein)
Akiva Levy buried in a mass grave of Gush Etzion – top row, third from the right (photo by Deena Levenstein)

Akiva was born in Germany and was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp where his parents and siblings were killed. After years of being moved from camp to camp followed by his liberation, he moved to Israel in 1946. He was killed in Gush Etzion in 1948 and he is buried in a mass grave on Mount Herzl, Israel’s central military cemetery.

Touring Israel - akiva levy
Akiva Levy, a Holocaust survivor who was killed in the War of Independence, 1948

Akiva’s story and the stories of all the other soldiers who have been killed in the line of duty are told in Israel’s memorial website.

The Memorial Day sirens are truly something to behold. There is one in the evening and one in the morning and they are sounded throughout the cities and towns of Israel, bringing everyone to a standstill, including those driving on highways and walking in busy areas. See it for yourself here:

And Israel Independence Day follows…

The State of Israel is a wondrous blessing in the history of the Jewish people. Following a heart wrenching day when we remember the people who are not here today because they helped protect Israel and keep it strong, we do something almost unfathomable – we transition into one of the happiest days in the Jewish/Israeli calendar – Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day.

This juxtaposition of one of the saddest days in the year to one of the most joyous days is difficult for many and yet makes sense since the way to truly appreciate the amazing fact that we have a state is by looking back at those who made it possible, like Akiva Levy, the Holocaust survivor, and thousands of others.

Independence Day is a day of great fun with lots of partying, fireworks, BBQing and general festivities throughout the country. One of the most touching events of the day is the flyover by the Israel Air Force, one of Israel’s greatest prides.

Touring Israel - The Independence Day flyover (photo by the IDF Spokesperson)
The Independence Day flyover (photo by the IDF Spokesperson on Pikiwiki)

Israel’s short history has been a roller coaster ride. So many names have been added to the list of those to remember just since last year and yet here we are, commemorating and celebrating, with pride and hope for a good future in the Promised Land.


Deena Levenstein

Deena Levenstein is a writer and social-cultural entrepreneur in Jerusalem. She creates and hosts events and runs "Things to do in Jerusalem," a Facebook group of handpicked cultural events in the city. In her spare time she blogs at

you may also like