What does Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) & Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Independence Day) mean to our local shlichim (emissaries)?
The Jewish Federation’s Congregational Shlichim Program, part of Federation’s Imagine Israel initiative*, has brought eleven shlichim to local synagogues and schools this year. The program connects Israelis with congregations and schools and transforms how more than 25,000 congregants and students relate to Israel.
Through a program of The Jewish Agency for Israel and generous funding from Federation, our community benefits from the nation’s largest-ever mishlachat (delegation) of congregational shlichim to serve in our community’s congregations and schools. The shlichim are dedicated to the Jewish people, Jewish heritage and to Israel. They are hand-picked from different parts of Israeli society and diverse professional backgrounds.
These programs are powered by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Community Shlichim Program.
Talia Garber, Adas Israel Congregation
“This month is the month we commemorate two very important days in Israel – Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut (יום הזיכרון ויום העצמאות); the National Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror attack victims and then Israel’s Independence Day.
The fact that these two days are marked together is significant, even if it feels a little odd to have a memorial day and then a big celebration, there is meaning behind it. The reason we have the memorial day for fallen soldiers come just before we celebrate the independence day of Israel is that these are the men and women that gave their lives for the State of Israel to exist.
The importance of remembering that they are the reason we even have a country, is what helps get you through the very drastic transition between the days. I have found myself many times so overcome by sadness after watching the memorial videos all day (that’s all that is broadcast on television, no regular programing is aired) that I can’t even think about going out to celebrate and have fun…so I really can’t begin to imagine how it must be for families of the fallen.
There is however something very comforting in knowing that the whole country is grieving together. It is in these times that you really feel the strength and togetherness that the Israeli people have. The country literally bows its head in silence together. This happens twice during Yom HaZikaron – once on the eve of the day, when the siren is heard all over the country and everyone stops and stands in silence, then a second time on the morning of the day itself. The siren sounding is a very powerful moment in Israel and it only happens one other time throughout the year, on the Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel. This moment is probably a very strange moment for visitors in Israel, as all traffic stops, all the people stand still and for 2 minutes a loud siren pierces the silence.
I think that will be the biggest thing I will feel is missing for me this year, as it is such a big part of these memorial days, it is such a meaningful thing to know that your whole country is doing the same thing as you for 2 minutes – standing in silence to remember the tragic loss of some of our brothers and sisters. I know this is something that might be a little difficult to explain to someone who did not grow up with this ingrained in them, but for Israelis these days are some of the most important and respected of the year.
I hope we can make this a memorable evening and find a new way to connect to Israel and the memory of those who protected it. Then, when we celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut, we can be thankful for having something to celebrate and know in our hearts why this is possible.
Wishing for a future when we won’t have to add anymore fallen to our list and only celebrate life and peace, but until that time comes, I hope we can bring some meaning to these complicated and difficult days.”
In recent years, there is a new thought that’s being brought to the surface – we aren’t only mourning the dead during Yom HaZikaron – we’re mourning the injuries, the physical and mental wounds that the soldiers and the Israeli society, in general, is suffering. Join Rotem on April 27 at 10 a.m. for a lesson and discussion about this new project – shards.
To create a personal and meaningful connection to the wider D.C. community in observance of Yom HaZikaron, the Community Shlichim Program will be distributing zikaron packets. Each digital packet is personalized for an IDF soldier who gave their life in defense of the State of Israel and includes a song about the soldier. We have handpicked and translated more than 20 amazing and touching stories, bringing Israel closer to your family. This way, we’re sharing their personal stories, one soldier with one family at a time.
To receive a zikaron packet directly to your e-mail on Yom HaZikaron Eve please fill out thisshort form.
Join Tomer at 4 p.m. on April 27 for a special Yom HaZikaron commemoration. Tomer’s relatives, the family of Natan Cohen z”l, killed by a sniper in Gaza in 2014, will join the program and share their story. Join Tomer following his program to watch the Embassy of Israel’s Yom HaZikaron commemoration.
The Jewish Agency for Israel’s National Shlichim Yom HaZikaron Commemoration
Join the Jewish Agency for Israel to honor the soldiers who gave their lives serving Israel. While we may not be able to commemorate these fallen heroes at in-person community events this year, we can unite virtually to pay tribute – every one of us, together.
Tuesday, April 28th at 12 p.m., 12:45 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 5:45 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 8 p.m.
“Living in a moshav within a small community meant that we grew up taking part in Yom HaZikaron & Yom Ha’Atzmaut ceremonies. We knew the stories of those fallen soldiers from our moshav so well and felt such reverence standing with the IDF uniforms in the ceremony. We stood there with our childhood friends, all in uniforms, most of us in combat units, and we knew that it was now our duty to keep our country safe. Since then, my duty passed to my siblings, and I have looked at them from the audience, feeling so proud to see them in uniforms, and my little sister who runs the ceremony with her Bnei Akiva youth movement. Yom HaZikaron became much harder after I began to know so many young fallen soldiers, in my army service and a family member in Gaza in 2014.
The transition to the celebration of Yom Ha’Atzmaut is so sharp, but that’s what makes it so meaningful. The connection between our fallen soldiers who gave their lives so that we can live and flourish in the Jewish State, that Jews dreamed of for 2000 years, is so clear. There’s no real celebration like the celebrations on Yom Ha’Atzmaut in Israel!”
Netta Asner Minster, B’nai Israel Congregation
“When I drafted into the IDF in April 2014, Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut ended up being at the end of my basic training and we were notified last minute we would have to stay on base. I was devastated as I was looking forward to being home with my family. While I was on guard duty later that evening, one of our strict officers became more human and said to me, “You most likely will only serve for two years and this is one of those years that you have the opportunity to be in your uniform, protecting your base, on the day that we not only honor those who have fallen while wearing these same uniforms, but also the day after that, when because of the IDF and those soldiers, we can also celebrate our independence.” I remember distinctly standing in my row of soldiers on Erev Yom HaZikaron holding my weapon, singing Hatikvah very loudly and passionately, while the officer’s words rung in my mind. She was right as that was the only time I ever was stuck on base for Yom HaZikaron and Atzmaut, a truly once in a lifetime experience for me.”
Danielle Bar, Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital & MoEd After School Community
Yom HaZikaron is a very special day for me.
As a child, I remember myself standing in the school’s special ceremony, wearing a white shirt, and a red flower sticker. I don’t think I actually knew why we were standing during the tzfira (siren) or why the kids’ channel on TV changed its regular schedule. I knew it wasn’t a regular day, but it was hard to understand why.
As the years went by, I understood more and more the uniqueness and the meaning of this day, especially as a soldier. I was a Hebrew teacher in the Border Police unit, and as a combat supporter, I worked with soldiers who did their training before they will get their position as combat soldiers who are guarding the inner borders of Israel (inside of the green line). Every couple of months, when my group finished their training, I was praying for their peace and safety.
Last year while I was here and far away from home, it was more clear and powerful than any other year. Suddenly I noticed that the songs on the radio here are like any other day, and in Israel, you only hear sad and quiet Israeli songs. I realized that if I didn’t listen to the siren online, I wouldn’t hear it and if I didn’t explain to some people that today is the Israeli Memorial Day, they wouldn’t even know.
Growing up in Israel, and in a household with a father who is an officer in reserve, you know you will wear a uniform one day. it is not even a question. As a growing child and teenager, Yom HaZikaron was powerful, it was a day with meaning, but the meaning for me came through the ceremonies at school, television broadcasts, and mostly through my father. Going with my father to Mt. Hertzl, seeing the graves and remembering those he knew who fell in the war.
One day, it was my turn to join the IDF. With that you hope, and maybe almost do not believe that this day will change for you. But now you are the one in uniform. As one of my favorite songs say – “who of us dreamed back then in the classroom, when we learned to recite ‘on your walls Jerusalem I posted guards’, that a day will come and I will be one of them.” I never thought that the memories on this day would shift and become those of the ones I knew, of those I want to remember and honor.
Growing up in Israel, being proud to serve, being proud of those who served, makes Yom HaZikaron one of the most meaningful days. Directly after comes Yom Ha’Atzmaut, with a dissonance that we are used to in Israel, and that I feel is important, as it is important to celebrate our country that is not to be taken for granted.
As a warm-up to JFNA’s main event, join Netta on April 29 at 1:30 p.m. for some classic Israeli songs to get into the mood of Yom Ha’Atzmaut.
Join the Adas Israel Young Professionals and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Community Shlichim on May 1st at 5 p.m. for a pre-Shabbat happy hour. In honor of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, we will have breakout rooms where the shlichim will discuss a variety of topics related to Israel. Pour yourself a glass of wine, beer, or cider (or all of the above) and join us in celebrating the diversity of Israel and greeting Shabbat together!
Join Talia & other community shlichim on April 29 at 5 p.m. for a Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration of Israel through music. We will discuss different eras of music in Israel, how they affected the culture and history and what the different songs mean to Israelis as a nation and on a personal level.
“It always starts with searching my closet for a white shirt. These two days of such stark contrast are both always represented in the small things, which for me means a white shirt. Leaving the house to walk down the hill to the ceremony, I would wear my white shirt and black pants. The night after for the celebratory kumzitz (musical gathering) it would be white shirt and blue pants. These two days of sheer sadness and happiness, of day and night, of ceremonies, graves, sirens, songs, dancing, fireworks all somehow come together in that one moment – looking for a white shirt.”
Idan Sharon, Adat Shalom
I’m standing on a mountain of graves, before the grave of someone I haven’t met, surrounded by my sister, mother, grandmother, great aunt, great-grandmother and about a hundred thousand more people. A lone siren sounds. The sun is strong, the air is searing, and they cut down the pine trees that used to give us shade for as long as I can remember.
Grandma’s head is covered by my sister’s hand, to try and keep her cool and away from the sun. Grandma isn’t getting any younger, and her big brother lying there in the grave will never get any older. I know that whatever happens, I will be here again next year, the same way I have been since first grade. And those people there, who died when my mother was ten, they aren’t strangers, they are my childhood.”
Yael Shafrir, Congregation Har Shalom
“For years Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut have been days when I remember and appreciate those who lost their lives in order for Israel to exist, but since my army service those days became much more important. I finally understood what it means to serve my country in order to protect the people I love. Me being on shlichut is just another way to express how proud I am of the country I have and the accomplishments that we have accomplished in this small, young and beautiful country.”
Join Tomer on April 29 at 4 p.m. for a virtual culinary tour of the shuk (market) with Tair, a culinary guide, who will present a brief history of the shuk, tell you the story of the top restaurants, and discuss the various cultures that can be seen in the shuk and how they contribute to the shuk’s unique character.
Some say Israel has the best food in the world. Are you ready to try it?
Join the D.C. area shlichim on May 6 at 5:30 p.m. in celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut at virtual Israeli cooking sessions! At these special workshops, the shlichim will showcase food from various communities in Israel and tell the stories behind the recipes.
Tal Greenberg, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School & Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County
It is difficult to describe the feeling and the atmosphere of Yom HaZikaron in Israel in words. My three years in military service, two years as a soldier and one year as an officer, are three years I will never forget. To feel part of a nation, part of an organization that is such a big part of our country, to be a piece of the puzzle that makes up the Land of Israel. For several years now, I wasn’t in Israel on Yom HaZikaron, and I have experienced it from far away. Three years ago, I was traveling in Vietnam, and no Israeli around me wanted to give up the ceremony. On Yom HaZikaron in Hoi An 2017, we had our own ceremony, told stories of soldiers we knew personally, sang songs, talked and connected.
This year, when I see six of my CESJDS former students wearing uniforms proudly, connecting to Israel and working hard, days and nights, for a country they feel connected to, even if they have never lived in it, is an indescribable sense of pride.
This year our day will be different, but maybe for the better. We will all have time to sit at home thinking, remembering, learning and honoring the thousands of soldiers, families, women, children, uncles, grandmothers, and friends who have lost their loved ones.
I wish the for people of Israel to continue and remember all who lost their lives to protect us, and that other names will not be added to the list.
An Understanding of David Ben Gurion
‘Ben-Gurion, Epilogue’ Viewing & Discussion: A Telling Interview with Israel’s First Prime Minister
April 29, 7:30 p.m.
On the celebration of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, we will be celebrating by watching a rare interview of David Ben Gurion that was recently released. Noa Bab, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Senior Shlicha, spent a couple of years in Sde Boker, Ben Gurion’s educational institute. She will share some personal stories and lead us in a discussion of selected clips from Ben Gurion’s interview as we think together about the State of Israel through the lens of Ben Gurion; from vision to reality.
This event is led by Women’s Philanthropy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
A Bridge Between the U.S and Israel: The LGBTQ Community
with Elad Strohmayer, Spokesperson, Embassy of Israel, Washington, DC.
April 29, 7:30 PM
B’nai Israel Congregation will be hosting Elad Strohmayer, the Spokesperson of the Embassy of Israel to the United States in Washington D.C., for a special Yom Ha’Atzmaut lecture about the LGBTQ community as the bridge between the U.S. and Israel.
Elad has servied as the Spokesperson since July 2018. Before joining the Israeli Foreign Service, he spent 8 years working at The Jewish Agency for Israel. Elad holds a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations along with an M.A. in International Relations – Diplomacy and Security Studies, both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Noa Ohayon Bab, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
“I was born Jewish, but I actively choose to lead a Jewish life. I was born in Israel, but I actively choose to live in Israel. Living in Israel is almost always making an active choice, also leaving Israel. A friend of mine has three sons, when the boys turned 8, 10 & 13, The family packed their 10 suitcases and moved to Australia. She said, “I can’t send three sons to the IDF,” and I understood her. I understood even better once my own son was born 2 years ago.
Though Israel has had to fight many wars, from the very beginning, she sought peace. Yom HaZikaron to me, is all about that, commemoration, cherishing every single soul we lost who made the exciting State of Israel possible. At the same time, aspiring for a more just society and the endless hope for a safer and better tomorrow. Many times, my friends abroad ask me, how do I live with the constant threat of fear and war? My answer is always – is, that takes faith. Israel is the people that has always been sustained by faith, faith in God, in the future, in life itself. The country’s very existence is testimony to faith: the faith of a hundred generations that Jews would return; the faith that led the pioneers to rebuild a land against seemingly impossible odds; the faith that after the Holocaust the Jewish people could live again; the faith that, in the face of death, continues to say: choose life.
We choose to go on this journey on shlichut, to represent Israel and share those stories and narratives. I’m excited for my family’s first Yom Ha’Atzmaut abroad, for us to be here, with the Jewish community of Greater Washington. Choosing life together.”
We invite you to join us for Masa Israel Journey's Yom HaZikaron Memorial Ceremony and the Jewish Federations of North America's Global Celebration for Israel's 72nd Independence Day.
Masa Israel Journey’s Yom HaZikaron Memorial Ceremony