Yom Hazikaron & Yom Haatzmaut in Israel
Updated: Aug 27
By Roey Shoshan, Director, Hillel at UGA
Growing up in Israel, the 48 hours between the eve of Yom HaZikaron and the end of Yom Haatzmaot are challenging — a time where we move from deep sorrow to great joy.
As a kid, I spent Yom HaZikaron accompanying my grandmother to Mount Herzel in Jerusalem, where we assembled with thousands of people for an official ceremony. For my family, it was a chance to pay respects to my grandmother’s brother, Yossi Turgeman.
Although I never met Yossi, I’ve always felt a strong connection with him. Yossi was serving as a reserve soldier on the Suez Canal between Israel and Egypt when he died in the Yom Kippur War.
Yossi was called to serve on Rosh Hashana. He had a young child at the time, and his good friend offered to switch shifts so that Yossi could be with his family over the holiday.
Little did they know that switch would change the course of their lives.
Yossi and his friends were some of the first to die in the line of fire as the Egyptian army surprised them during the Yom Kippur War. His family received the news of his death weeks later as it was difficult to recognize Yossi among the wounded.
You can only imagine the deep sorrow my family experiences every year. During our visits to Mount Herzel, I am always shocked to see how quickly emotion could shift from grief to joy as people readied themselves for Yom Haatzmaot. However, after serving as a soldier myself, I have come to understand that this resilience is exactly what makes Israel such a special place.
We must make time to celebrate our community, no matter what.
This week, as we once again face the 48 hours, no one will be going to Jerusalem. The COVID-19 crisis has prompted the government to shutter all cemeteries and cancel all celebrations. The lack of closure this year will be devastating for my grandmother and many others, but Yossi will not be forgotten.
I continue to share his story whenever I can, with students during every Birthright trip I staff, through written word and beyond. And my grandmother knows this is how we will keep his memory alive.
In 72 years, Israel has accomplished a lot; but what I am most proud of is the sense of community we are able to generate every year during the 48 hours between the eve of Yom HaZikaron and the end of Yom Haatzmaot.
Happy 72 Israel, See you soon.
Director, Hillel at University of Georgia