Spring in Israel is filled with holy days, remembrance days, and holidays. With Passover, Easter, and Holocaust Remembrance Day behind us, the country turns to Memorial Day and Independence Day — two days of intense emotion and unique local customs.
Memorial Day — Yom Hazikaron (officially known as Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day) starts on Sunday night and continues to sundown Monday, when, in an intense and sudden change of mood, the whole country erupts into celebration of the 63rd anniversary of Israel’s Independence.
Commemorations of all Israel’s fallen soldiers (22,867) begins with a one minute siren at 8 p.m, Sunday evening that marks the commencement of the official ceremony at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, attended by the countries top military and political leadership. Another siren will sound at 11 a.m on Monday, as the entire country comes to a standstill in memory of all those who died defending the state.
Several events in Jerusalem are open to the public on Sunday night: At Sultans Pool, an evening of remembrance for victims of terror begins at 8 p.m with a long list of well-known Israeli performers including David Broza and Shlomo Gronich. Tickets at Bimot ticket office or call 02-623-7000.
In the plaza outside City Hall at Safra Square on Jaffa Road, Mayor Nir Barkat will open an evening of community singing dedicated to Israel’s fallen soldiers, that also features Israeli singers.
Places of entertainment and many restaurants are closed between Sunday night-Monday night.
At 9 a.m on Monday morning, ceremonies will take place at several monuments at places where battles for Jerusalem were fought in all Israel’s wars. Yemin Moshe and Ramat Rachel are two that are easy to find.
Throughout the day, Israel TV and radio will broadcast somber music and reminiscences until sundown, when the mood lifts. Thanksgiving prayers are recited in every synagogue, accompanied by music at many places–the Beit Yehudit Community Center at 12 Emek Refaim attracts hundreds to their outdoor musical prayer service that starts at 8:15 p.m. After that, street parties and celebrations break out all over the city with 3 separate fireworks displays throughout the night.
Head for the main stage at Zion Square on Jaffa Road. Starting at 9 p.m free music and entertainment will start. Main act is an appearance by singer Sarit Hadad.
Another stage will be set up on King George Street in front of the Mashbir Department store for the more religiously-oriented public. Featured performers include Reva L’Sheva and Yossi Sweid.
Back down in Safra Square between 9 p.m-11 p.m in front of the Municipality Building at the eastern end of Jaffa Road, catch the sounds of Mosh Lahav and community singing. Between 11-3:30 a.m, the plaza will be filled with hundreds of Israelis enjoying Israeli folk dancing.
Two fireworks displays will fire off from the roof of the Leonardo Plaza Hotel on King George Street–one at 10:45 p.m, the other at midnight.
Over at the Haas Promenade (the Tayelet overlooking the Old City) fireworks are scheduled for 11 p.m after singer Boaz Mauda finishes his set.
As if all that wasn’t enough, a host of popular DJs will liven up the Machane Yehuda Market between 10 p.m-4 a.m with Hebrew and electronic music.
Plan on sleeping in the next day, before heading out to witness 7 million Israelis vying for a spot to light up their barbie and enjoy a rare day off that’s not a religious holiday.