There is nothing quite like Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. It is observed on the day before Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, and is marked by a profound level of reverence and respect shown by the entire nation for the fallen soldiers of the wars of Israel. The day is deeply emotional, and its seriousness and solemnity are felt throughout the country, at every age level.
While Yom Hazikaron is best known in the Diaspora for its countrywide moments of silence while air raid sirens are sounded and for the annual memorial ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, similar memorial ceremonies and services are held in every city and cemetery throughout the country as Israelis mourn and remember fallen family members, friends and legendary national heroes.
The Israeli government expanded Yom Hazikaron’s scope in 1980 to include victims of the pre-state underground movements, the Mossad and the Prison Guard Service. And in 1998, it added civilian terror victims killed in Israel.
Last week, Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism announced that it was forming a committee to study a recommendation to expand the Yom Hazikaron observance to include Diaspora Jews who were felled by antisemitic terror. The recommendation was made by the U.S.-based Ruderman Family Foundation and the World Zionist Organization as a means for the State of Israel to mark, observe and act in solidarity with Jews around the world.
Until now, terror attacks against Jews in the Diaspora memorialized on an ad hoc basis. There is no single date upon which our community remembers the 2018 attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the murder of four people at the Hyper Cacher (Kosher) market in Paris in 2015 and the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Nor is there any coordination beyond whatever local observance is planned to remember those victims and numerous others.
The proposed policy is a good one for two reasons: First, it will provide a uniform date for world Jewry and others to remember victims of antisemitism and serve as a springboard for expanded programming and engagement on the issue of antisemitism in our communities. Second, it will provide an opportunity to bring Jews of Israel and the Diaspora together in marking the memories of those who were targeted and fell simply because they were Jewish.
We share a common history and heritage with our Israeli family. And just as we join with them in celebration, it is appropriate that we also join together to remember victims and to mourn.
We will wait to see what the Israeli government decides and whether the idea will gain traction in the Diaspora. From our perspective, however, anything that brings our Israeli and Diaspora communities closer together is a good thing.