Photos: Yom Hazikaron at the JCC remembers Israel’s fallen soldiers

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Cantor Ronald Eichaker leading Israeli scouts singing “Hatikvah”

Bill Motchan, Special For The Jewish Light

Americans celebrate Memorial Day every year with outdoor family barbecues, concerts and parades. Like the U.S. version, the Israel memorial day, Yom Hazikaron, acknowledges the sacrifice of fallen soldiers, but the occasion is far more solemn. Businesses are closed and Israelis spend the day attending memorial services.

 

A large local gathering commemorated Yom Hazikaron at the Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex May 3, the eve of the holiday (which runs until sundown May 4). The program included readings in Hebrew and English, songs and a dance performed by the Horah Gil Israeli Folk Dance Troupe. The program began with a torch lighting performed by a Major in the Israel Defense Forces. It concluded with “Hatikvah,” sung by Israeli scouts and led by Rabbi Ronald Eichaker, cantor at United Hebrew Congregation.

Tali Stadler, program director of the event, said she wanted the attendees to get as close as possible to the experience of being in Israel, a small country that must always be on guard and defend itself.

“Some of the highlights are the songs and a video presentation that’s very touching, when everybody stands up for the siren for two minutes,” Stadler said. “When they hear the siren, it’s accompanied by a slide presentation for them to see what it’s like in Israel.”

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The air raid siren pierced the air at the J gathering as everyone stood in silence. It was not unlike the experience of many Israelis on May 4, said Bruce Michelson, who offered opening remarks.

“In Israel, the whole country stops everything they’re doing when the air raid signal sounds,” Michelson said. “Every car and bus stops and passengers stand solemnly for two minutes of painful memories to show their gratitude for the ongoing price paid by young soldiers.

“On Yom Hazikaron in Israel, theaters, cinemas and places of entertainment are closed,” Michelson said. “On this day, the entire country, including family members, gather at military ceremonies and cemeteries for memorial services, which are all conducted at the same time. In a small country with a heroic military record, the glory of victory has never been considered an adequate consolation for the loss of life.”