University of Haifa International School Student Blog
Two of the most important days of the year took place last week in Israel, Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day). No other country in the world (as far as I know) observes their remembrance day and independence day in the same 48 hours, but here in Israel when the sun goes down on Yom Hazikaron, Yom Ha’aztmaut begins.
Yom Hazikaron is nothing like Veteran’s day in the United States. I don’t know how the equivalent day is spent in other countries, but in the U.S. people are out holding barbeques and having a good time. In Israel everyone is in mourning. Yom Hazikaron is about remembering all the soldiers who have given their lives for the country, and remembering all the victims of terror attacks in a country that has spent its now 68 years of existence being rocked by constant attacks. It is said, and it is true, that everyone who has lived in the country for some time knows someone who has died in battle, or been killed by a terrorist attack, and thus this tiny country of less than 10 million people is in collective mourning on Yom Hazikaron. Even if you are not part of the mourning you can see the respect for it when the sirens go off and the city freezes. One siren goes off in the night Yom Hazikaron starts (all holidays in Israel are from night to night) and another goes off the next morning. I was on my way to Jerusalem when the first siren went off and all the buses and people stopped. Bus drivers got out of the buses, cab drivers got out of cabs, and everyone stood in silence. The next day when I was in Jerusalem I made sure to be in one of the busiest places in the city when the siren went off, so I went to Mahane Yehuda (the shuk). I spent 15 minutes walking around and seeing the usual hustle and bustle of the shuk, at 10:59 am I went to the top of the shuk where I would be able to see the main street of the market and the main street of cars and buses. At 11 am the siren sounded and every car and bus stopped, many of the drivers getting out and standing in the street, and every person in the busy shuk stopped in place. It was as if someone had pressed the pause button on a remote control of the world. I have been in Israel on this day before, but never in such a busy place and so I had never fully witnessed what the country looked like when it was on pause. Two minutes later the siren ended and everyone returned to their hustle and bustle.
At 8 pm that night there was a tekes (a ceremony), and just like that it was Yom Ha’atzmaut, and the country was celebrating. I was at a BBQ at my saba’s house eating much more than I ever should and drinking with him and his friends. Then a friend and I headed to the shuk where we knew there would be some crazy parties taking place. As we walked over there we passed Ben Yehuda Street, which is basically where all the Americans go to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, it was packed! We walked through it briefly since it was on our way to our destination and met up with another friend. After easily convincing him to come to the shuk with us we headed over there and spent the next several hours at one of the bars. Every bar had its own dance party and DJ booth set up outside of them; it was loud crazy and fun. I am usually one to prefer having a drink somewhere where I can also have a conversation, but Yom Ha’atzmaut is one of those days I will make an exception. Got back to my saba’s house around 4 am, and slept through until midway through the next day. During the day of Yom Ha’atzmaut is really when most families BBQ and are out and about, and my friend from the international school and I saw them all as we walked around the next day.
Many other countries take their lives for granted, Israel is so thankful every single year and that is what makes Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut such amazing experiences here.