Category: Holidays in Israel
Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה; "Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day"), known colloquially in Israel and abroad as Yom HaShoah (יום השואה) and in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Holocaust Day, is observed as Israel's day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its collaborators, and for the Jewish resistance in that period. In Israel, it is a national memorial day. The first official commemorations took place in 1951, and the observance of the day was anchored in a law passed by the Knesset in 1959. It is held on the 27th of Nisan (April/May), unless the 27th would be adjacent to the Jewish Sabbath, in which case the date is shifted by a day.
The first Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel took place on December 28, 1949, following a decision of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel that an annual memorial should take place on the Tenth of Tevet, a traditional day of mourning and fasting in the Hebrew calendar. The day was marked by the burial in a Jerusalem cemetery of ashes and bones of thousands of Jews brought from the Flossenbürg concentration camp and religious ceremonies held in honor of the victims. A radio program on the Holocaust was broadcast that evening. The following year, in December 1950, the Rabbinate, organizations of former European Jewish communities and the Israel Defense Forces held memorial ceremonies around the country; they mostly involved funerals, in which objects such as desecrated Torah scrolls and the bones and ashes of the dead brought from Europe were interred.
In 1951, the Knesset began deliberations to choose a date for Holocaust Remembrance Day. On April 12, 1951, after also considering as possibilities the Tenth of Tevet, the 14th of Nisan, which is the day before Passover and the day on which the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (April 19, 1943) had begun, and September 1, the date on which the Second World War had begun, the Knesset passed a resolution establishing the 27 Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, a week after Passover, and eight days before Israel Independence Day as the annual Holocaust and Ghetto Uprising Remembrance Day.
On May 3, 1951, the first officially organized Holocaust Remembrance Day event was held at the Chamber of the Holocaust on Mount Zion; the Israel Postal Service issued a special commemorative envelope, and a bronze statue of Mordechai Anielewicz, the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt, was unveiled at Yad Mordechai, a kibbutz named for him. From the following year, the lighting of six beacons in memory of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis became a standard feature of the official commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day.
On April 8, 1959, the Knesset officially established the day when it passed the Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day Law with the purpose of instituting an annual "commemoration of the disaster which the Nazis and their collaborators brought upon the Jewish people and the acts of heroism and revolt performed." The law was signed by the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, and the President of Israel, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. It established that the day would be observed by a two-minute silence when all work would come to a halt throughout the country, memorial gatherings and commemorative events in public and educational institutions would be held, flags would be flown at half mast, and programs relevant to the day would be presented on the radio and in places of entertainment. An amendment to the law in 1961 mandated that cafes, restaurants and clubs be closed on the day.
Yom HaShoah opens in Israel at sundown in a state ceremony held in Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Authority, in Jerusalem. During the ceremony the national flag is lowered to half mast, the President and the Prime Minister both deliver speeches, Holocaust survivors light six torches symbolizing the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and the Chief Rabbis recite prayers.
On Yom HaShoah, ceremonies and services are held at schools, military bases and by other public and community organizations.
On the eve of Yom HaShoah and the day itself, places of public entertainment are closed by law. Israeli television airs Holocaust documentaries and Holocaust-related talk shows, and low-key songs are played on the radio. Flags on public buildings are flown at half mast. At 10:00, an air raid siren sounds throughout the country and Israelis are expected to observe two minutes of solemn reflection. Almost everyone stops what they are doing, including motorists who stop their cars in the middle of the road, standing beside their vehicles in silence as the siren is sounded.
Observance of the day is moved back to the Thursday before, if 27 Nisan falls on a Friday (as in 2021), or forward a day, if 27 Nisan falls on a Sunday (as in 2024), to avoid adjacency with the Jewish Sabbath. The fixed Jewish calendar ensures 27 Nisan does not fall on Saturday.
Jewish communities and individuals throughout the world commemorate Yom HaShoah in synagogues as well as in the broader Jewish community. Many hold their commemorative ceremonies on the closest Sunday to Yom HaShoah as a more practical day for people to attend, while some mark the day on April 19, the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Jewish schools also hold Holocaust-related educational programs on or near Yom HaShoah.
Commemorations typically include memorial services and communal vigils and educational programs. These programs often include talks by Holocaust survivors (although this is becoming less common as time passes and there are fewer survivors who remain alive), candle-lighting ceremonies, the recitation of memorial prayers, the Mourner's Kaddish and appropriate songs and readings. Some communities read the names of Holocaust victims or show Holocaust-themed films.
Since 1988 in Poland, a memorial service has been held after a 3-kilometer walk by thousands of participants from Auschwitz to Birkenau in what has become known as "The March of the Living".
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