Yom Ha’Atzmaut and Yom Ha’ Zikron

Intertwined by Design

By Travis Snow
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Posted in Jewish HolidaysYom Ha-Atzmaut, Yom Hazikaron, on February 22, 2018

Against all odds, Israel declared its independence as a sovereign nation on May 14, 1948. Soon after, the tiny nation also won its first major war for survival (1948-1949). This historic milestone is now commemorated as Israel’s annual Independence Day, known in Hebrew as Yom Ha’Atzmaut. It is celebrated on the 5th of Iyar on the Hebrew calendar, which corresponded with Israel’s original May 14 date of independence.

Generally speaking, the Israeli public enjoys common Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebrations, such as barbequing outdoors with friends and family, and watching the fireworks. However, Yom Ha’Atzmaut is also traditionally preceded by Israel’s more somber Day of Remembrance (Yom Ha’Zikaron), which occurs twenty-four hours prior. During this time, it is specifically the nation’s men and women in uniform, both past and present, who are honored.

In contrast to America’s Memorial Day and Independence Day, which occur over a month apart, the founders of the Modern State of Israel intentionally linked Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut together, in order to communicate a vital message to the wider public. They wanted the nation to always remember that its celebrations of independence are forever rooted in the sacrifice and dedication of its soldiers.

For this reason, prior to the more carefree celebrations of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Yom Ha’Zikaron is traditionally marked by a reverent commemoration ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This ceremony begins with the sounding of a one-minute long air-raid siren at 8 p.m., which is followed by the lowering of the Israeli flag to half-mast. The next morning, at 11 a.m., another series of air-raid sirens echo throughout the entire Land, which signals the nation to come to a complete stand-still for two minutes, in order to honor and respect its fallen soldiers. As Yom Ha’Zikaron continues throughout the day, a number of other memorial ceremonies take place in Israeli schools, community centers, and synagogues, while local TV stations typically feature documentaries and human-interest stories related to Israel’s history of military conflict and fight against terrorism.

Once the sun begins to set at the end of Yom Ha’Zikaron, Yom Ha’Atzmaut officially begins with a ceremony on Mt. Herzl outside Jerusalem, at the national military cemetery. During this ceremony, it is customary for the Israeli Prime Minister to deliver a speech, for the flag to be returned to full mast, and for twelve torches, known as the “twelve beacons,” to be lit on Mt. Herzl, which represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Once Yom Ha’Atzmaut officially begins, the national mood shifts from one of serious reflection, to one of celebration and joy.


Travis Snow is a devoted follower of Yeshua and husband to his wife Tali. He is also the president and founder of Voice of Messiah, a non-profit ministry committed to reaching Jewish people with the Gospel and helping the Church understand God’s purposes for Israel. In his spare time, he enjoys gardening, hiking, and watching European soccer. To read more of Travis’ writing, go to www.voiceofmessiah.com