Israel Enters Somber Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Memorial Day will be officially inaugurated at 8 PM Sunday night.

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Yosef Berger,

Holocaust memorial
Holocaust memorial
Flash 90

Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoa) will be officially inaugurated at 8 PM Sunday night, in a ceremony at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. 

In the official ceremony at Yad Vashem, six torches will be lit by six Holocaust survivors, followed by the reciting of the “Kel Maleh Rachamim” prayer, which is recited for the deceased, and the recitation of the Kaddish for the six million. Ceremonies will also be held in cities throughout the country, with torch lightings, prayers, and commemorative assemblies. Israeli television and radio stations broadcast programs relating to the Holocaust, toning down their usual exuberant (or in the case of political discussions, strident) broadcasts, reflecting the somber mood of the day.

At 10 AM Monday, a siren will sound, and two minutes later a ceremony will be held in which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and other top government, IDF, and judicial officials will place wreaths at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial in Jerusalem. 

At the sounding of the siren, all Israelis are expected to stand and reflect on the meaning of the Holocaust and the loss of six million Jews, and the destruction of the long-lived Jewish communities of Europe. Traffic comes to a halt, as Israelis step out of their vehicles and stand besides them as the siren is sounded.

In recent years Israeli Jews have complained numerous times that Arabs have refused to stand or stop driving while the siren sounded, and in some cases have taken the opportunity to make fun of Jews. In a letter last year, activists with the Im Tirzu group demanded that something be done about this issue. “Among the provocations we have witnessed during the siren sounding is loud music being played, phone calls with much laughter being made, shouting of political slogans, and more,” the activists wrote, discussing the problem that has been prevalent on college campuses. “We demand that academic institutions, as important state-affiliated institutions, do everything possible to ensure that the dignity of the siren ceremony is maintained, and prevent the hurting of the feelings of the majority of students.”

A number of additional events are scheduled for Monday as well. The public is invited to Yad Vashem to participate in the “Every Person Has a Name” event, in which individuals will read out the names of those who perished in the Holocaust. That event will begin at 11 AM. Knesset members will also read names of the victims on Monday morning, in a separate event.

At 5:30 PM, a special event for youth groups will be held, and at 6:30 PM, a special event for the children and grandchildren of survivors will be held at the Tzavta Theater in Tel Aviv.

The day will be capped by a special performance of Lawrence Siegel's oratory “Kaddish,” by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day is held annually on the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. The day was chosen because it was the Hebrew date on which the Warsaw Ghetto uprising began 71 years ago.