Israeli soldier places flowers on graves of fallen soldiers at Mount Herzl Cemetery. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
MIDEAST ISRAEL MEMORIAL DAY

Although public gatherings to honor Israel’s fallen and celebrate independence have been cancelled due to coronavirus, there are many great ways to pay tribute and virtually participate.

By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler

From time immemorial, the Jewish nation has celebrated joyous occasions while remembering the tragedies and challenges that paved the way.

Monday evening will be no different as the State of Israel honors its fallen soldiers (Yom HaZikaron) over a 24 hour period and then immediately celebrates its independence (Yom Ha’atzmaut).

This year, due to coronavirus restrictions, public activities have been curtailed. Memorials and celebrations are available virtually in lieu of the traditional outings to cemeteries and parks.

Yom HaZikaron: Memorial Day

In Israel, Memorial Day is not a time for sales, entertainment or days at the beach. Nearly every Israeli has lost a relative or friend who lost their life while defending the state or for simply living as a Jew in their Land.

Yom HaZikaron is ushered in Monday at sundown with a two minute siren blaring across the country. Everyone stops in their tracks to pay tribute to Israel’s fallen heroes and victims of terror.

All contemplate those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in order that they may live in the Jewish homeland. Included in minds and hearts are the 23,816 fallen soldiers, police and security personnel. The more than 3,150 victims of terror are also remembered.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, public ceremonies throughout Israel that would normally include a national ceremony at Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem along with services at military cemeteries throughout the country have been cancelled.

However, there are various ways one can still honor Israel’s fallen heroes. Here are a few:

-Visit Israel’s Izkor site. One may search the name of a specific fallen soldier or find the name of a soldier to pray for. One may read the soldier’s story and find out details about the person’s life.

-Say the traditional Jewish prayer for the deceased:

May God remember the valiant men and women who braved mortal danger in the days of struggle prior to the establishment of the State of Israel and the soldiers who fell in the wars of Israel. May the people of Israel cherish them in their memory; let them mourn the splendor of youth, the altruism of valor, the dedication of will and the dignity of self-sacrifice which came to an end on the battlefield. May the loyal and courageous heroes of freedom and victory be sealed forever within the hearts of all Israel, in this generation and forever more.

-Say the special memorial prayer for members of the Israel Defense Forces:

O God, full of mercy, Who dwells on high, grant proper rest in the wings of the Divine Presence in the lofty level of the holy and the pure ones, who shine like the glow of the firmament for the souls of the men and women of the Israel Defense Forces who met their deaths in the wars of Israel, in action of defense, retaliation and security, while fulfilling their missions and during their service.

And to the souls of all the fighters of the underground organizations and the fighting units in the nations battles, and all the men and women of the intelligence community and the security and police forces who gave their lives in the sanctification of Gods Name and, with the help of the God of the armies of Israel, brought about the rebirth of the nation and the state and the redemption of the Land and the City of God, as well as all those who were murdered, in Israel and abroad, by murderers of the terrorist organizations, by virtue of our prayers for the ascent of their souls.

May the Merciful One therefore shelter them in the shelter of his wings for eternity; and may He bind their souls in the Bond of Life. The Lord is their heritage, Eden their place of rest. May they repose in peace in their resting places, may their merit reflect on all of Israel, and may they meet their destiny in the End of Days.

-The city of Beit Shemesh is broadcasting live at 8:00 pm a memorial service for the fallen that can be viewed on Facebook or YouTube.

-A special project by the organization Hidabroot was set up in order that every fallen soldier or terror victim would merit a chapter of Psalms be read in his or her memory. (Site is only available in Hebrew.)

-As family and friends cannot visit their loved one’s burial site this year, the general public is invited to join a zoom call to family members of those who have been killed and hear the person’s story. This project hopes to ensure that no one feels alone in their grief at this special time. One may choose the language of the people they would like to meet.

-A live tour of the Mt. of Olives where many fallen Israeli soldiers are buried can be viewed here Monday from 6:50 pm-8:35 pm Israel time.

-Masa Israel Journey will hold its annual memorial ceremony dedicated to the Diaspora community and their contributions to Israel’s story in English at 7:50 pm Israel time live on Facebook. Part of the ceremony was pre-recorded at Latrun, the location where fierce fighting took place before Israel’s independence and today houses a museum and the Israeli Armored Corps.

-The Consulate General of Israel in New York will hold an online ceremony with remarks by ambassador Dani Dayan Consul General of Israel in New York at 6 pm EST.

-The parents of fallen US lone soldier Michael Levin will speak at 7:55 pm Israel time. They will be joined by former US ambassador and Deputy Minister of Israel Michael Oren.

Yom Ha’atzmaut: Independence Day

Immediately following the solemn events of Yom HaZikaron, Israel celebrates the country’s independence established in 1948. Under normal circumstances, municipalities sponsor festive firework displays at night and parks fill to capacity in the daytime. Traditionally, friends and family gather for barbecues and the whiff of grilled meat fills the country’s air.

Under the economic strains of coronavirus, fireworks have been cancelled throughout the country. Though parks are closed and large gatherings are off limits, many have still stocked up on hot-dogs and steaks, planning to celebrate the miracle of the State of Israel at home.

However, one can still join virtual celebrations. Here are several happenings:

-Mizrachi World Movement is hosting an array of impressive representatives on the State of Israel, including President Reuven Rivlin, Chief Rabbi David Lau, and Natan Sharansky, keynote speakers including Rabbi Berel Wein and Rachelle Fraenkel, top singers and musicians, olympians, tour guides and more. Check out the full event here.

Masa Israel Journey is holding a webinar with Israeli Olympic Medalist Shahar Zubari on Wednesday at 5 pm Israel time.

-Join the “biggest ever live online Israel quiz.” It will take place on YouTube Wednesday from 6-7 pm Israel time.

-The Jewish Federations of North America and several other organizations are hosting a worldwide celebration on Wednesday from 2-3 pm EST.

-Every hour, starting at 10 am EST, one can join intimate conversations, interviews, family-friendly workshops, cooking classes and concerts with some of Israel’s most interesting citizens. This is pegged to be the world’s no. 1 Jewish podcast, IsraPalooza.

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