What is Yom Hazikaron and why does it matter?

Yom Hazikaron (Israel's Memorial Day) is a day to remember Israel’s fallen soldiers as well as Israeli victims of terror.
An Israeli soldier holds national flags with black ribbons at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on May 2, 2022, a day ahead of the Yom HaZikaron (Israel's Memorial Day). (Photo by Menachem Kahana / AFP via Getty Images)

Israel has fought six wars with neighboring Arab countries, confronted two Palestinian intifadas, and endured numerous terror attacks since its establishment in 1948, including repeated terror attacks in recent weeks that have left 15 dead. In this reality, to defend the Jewish state against these prolonged threats, the majority of Israelis serve in the army.

Out of necessity, Israel was the first country in modern history to make military service mandatory for both men and women. Men serve for a minimum of 30 months, while women serve for a minimum of 24 months (for non-combat roles) or 30 months (for combat roles).

Israel exists today as a strong and powerful country because of the extraordinary service and sacrifice made by its citizens throughout history.

However, this comes with an enormous price. This Yom Hazikaron, Israel remembers nearly 24,000 fallen soldiers and more than 4,000 victims of terror. Both numbers date back to 1860, before the state was founded. Additionally, more than 36,000 Israelis have been physically wounded during their military service.

For Israel, one of the consequences of fighting many wars and an ongoing threat of terrorism is the scars that are not seen. Many former IDF soldiers experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, which is a mental injury that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Those scars may be invisible but they are very real

Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) is a day to remember Israel’s fallen soldiers (including those who lost their lives in the War of Independence and all who were killed while serving in Israel’s armed forces), as well as all Israeli victims of terrorism.

In Israel on Yom Hazikaron, shops, restaurants and movie theaters are closed, while radio and television stations air stories about Israel’s wars and other programming that conveys the somber mood of the day.

Like on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), a siren blares twice during the day and the entire country comes to a standstill. People stand out of respect for those who sacrificed their lives to defend Israel and all lives lost by terror.

There are many ceremonies held throughout the day, beginning with one at the Kotel (Western Wall) and concluding with a national ceremony at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl, where many of Israel’s leaders and fallen soldiers are buried.

Yom Hazikaron is followed immediately by Yom Haatzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day).