Yom Hazikaron: Israel's Memorial Day

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Almost every high school in Israel has a "memorial corner" with the photos of the school graduates who fell in battle or while on military duty. Some high schools organize their own Yom Hazikaron ceremonies and invite the families of the fallen graduates to participate. The unique atmosphere of the day is enhanced by the sight of teenagers and children, all dressed in white shirts and blue pants or skirts, on their way to school, and thousands of soldiers in uniform on their way to the military cemeteries. 

The list of fallen soldiers becomes longer every year. The inevitable tendency of radio and television programs is to focus on individual stories of soldiers who lost their lives in recent decades, rather than on those who fought in the pre-state undergrounds and 1948 war, who have fewer surviving immediate family relatives today.

Yom Hazikaron is not conceived as a religious commemoration by the majority of Israelis, but as part of the civil culture. The siren sound seems to inspire awe and sanctity no less than any traditional religious ceremony.

Outside of Israel, Yom Hazikaron is commemorated as part of Israel Independence Day observance. There is usually a short memorial or a moment of silence preceding the communal Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration. In synagogues that observe Yom Ha'atzmaut, a special reading may be added to the service, often preceding the kaddish [memorial prayer].

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