Remembrance Day in Israel

by Maskil on November 11, 2009

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Confederati...

Remembrance Day – also known as Armistice Day, Poppy Day or Veterans Day in various countries – is observed throughout most of the Western World. It is not officially commemorated in Israel (although it is remembered by Jewish war veterans in accordance with their own their own countries’ customs throughout the Diaspora).

Yom Hazikaron, literally “Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day” is Israel’s official Memorial Day. Yom Hazikaron is observed alongside Yom Ha’atzmaut, the national independence day of Israel. As its name implies, Yom Hazikaron specifically honours the memory of Israeli soldiers killed in the line of duty, as well as its civilian terror victims. (In an earlier post, I did propose that its scope be changed to also embrace the Jewish victims of radical Islamist terror worldwide.)

It is, of course, entirely appropriate that Israel honours its own war dead in this fashion, and at that particular time. Perhaps it’s time to ask, though, whether there’s room within the Israeli calendar and consciousness for a more general salute for those (both Jews and non-Jews) who served, fought and died to make our world (such as it is) the place it is today, with all its problems and potential.

I realise that Israel probably already has too many national and religious public holidays, so I’m not about to suggest another! My thought was that perhaps the most appropriate way to do this would be an official honour guard and wreath-laying at the most significant Allied (mainly Commonwealth) war graves in Israel, e.g. the Jerusalem War Cemetery. Those honoured should include:

  • All who fought and died on the Allied side during both World Wars (but particularly in the fight against Hitler), and for freedom and democracy in subsequent conflicts
  • Those who took part in the liberation of our homeland from the Ottoman Turks in WWI
  • Jewish war veterans and war dead worldwide, from WWI through to the current day.

Perhaps more than anything else, this is a recognition that there is an underlying divide between those nations that commemorate Remembrance Day in some form, and those who don’t. Israel should stand firmly with those who do.

Postscript

The ever-vigilant Joel Katz pointed out that 9 May is already officially recognised as “Victory Day on Nazi Germany” in Israel, a “National remembrance day, business as usual”. 9 May was Stalin’s equivalent of V-E Day, and has little buy-in outside Soviet culture.  The fact that it is now celebrated in Israel appears to be a special concession to the +/- 1 million immigrants from the FSU who made Israel their home.  I envisaged the same kind of status for Remembrance Day;  perhaps in time the two remembrance days could be consolidated.

As an aside, Soviet Victory Day appears to be the only Israeli public holiday whose date in fixed in the Gregorian calendar, rather than the Hebrew calendar.

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