Less than one week after our deliverance on Pesach, Jews commemorate central events in contemporary history — first, the Shoah; then the Jewish state’s ongoing battles to survive; and finally, the Independence Day of the modern state of Israel. The first two are somber affairs, the third fully celebratory.
Wednesday nite and Thursday, April 7-8 Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day)
•The secular world marks “International Holocaust Remembrance Day” on Jan. 27, the date on which Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp, was liberated in 1945.
•The Jewish world — including Israel — marks “Yom Ha-Shoah” (Shoah is the Hebrew word for the Holocaust) on the Hebrew-calendar date of 27 Nisan (this year, that’s Friday April 9, but it’s being observed this year on 26 Nisan — Thursday, April 8 — in deference to erev Shabbat). 27 Nisan marks the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. Throughout Israel, air-raid sirens sound at 10 am, and people stop their vehicles in the middle of the road and stand beside their cars in silence as the sirens continue for two minutes. It’s an incredibly moving moment.
Tuesday nite and Wednesday, April 13-14
Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day)
Israelis continue to sacrifice their lives for the Jewish state’s existence; few Israeli families have not been touched by a personal loss in this regard. Because the wounds are so numerous and so fresh, Israel’s Memorial Day is unlike America’s. It’s a somber occasion, with all entertainment venues closed and most broadcasters airing suitably reflective music and programs focusing on those who were sacrificed.
Sirens are sounded twice — first, to denote the start of the day at nightfall on Tuesday (when the Jewish day begins); second, at 11 am, before prayers are recited in the military ceremonies.
By design, Memorial Day falls on the day preceding Independence Day.
Wednesday nite and Thursday, April 14-15
Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day)
The solemn mood of Memorial Day transitions at nightfall on Wednesday (when the Jewish day begins) to one of joy, as Israel celebrates its 73rd Independence Day.
•The secular world notes Israel’s Independence Day on May 14, the date on the general calendar on which David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. Some Christian groups that support Israel schedule pilgrimages to the Holy Land to coincide with its Independence Day on May 14.
•Israel marks its Independence Day on the Hebrew-calendar date of 5 Iyyar (this year, Saturday April 17), but it’s being observed this year on 15 Iyyar, because the celebratory events associated with Independence Day would be inappropriate on the Sabbath.