Maryland Hillel hosts Yom HaZikaron ceremony to honor fallen soldiers, families

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By Nicole Reisinger
For the Mitzpeh
@nareising

Maryland Hillel held a Yom HaZikaron ceremony Monday night at the Riggs Alumni Center to remember fallen soldiers and civilian victims of political violence.

Israel’s Memorial Day is a time of mourning and reflection of the past year’s terror victims and their families with ceremonies throughout Israel and an official state ceremony in Jerusalem at the Western Wall.

“Things like Yom HaZikaron are very important events. We treat it very differently than the United States’ Memorial day, where they have barbecues,” said sophomore Michal Antonov, a government and politics and communications major.  

“Here its very serious,” said Antonov. “There’s an actual cause that we are fighting for. It’s not just for the survival of the state of Israel, it’s the survival of the Jewish people, so they have a home to go back to… it’s important to recognize all the people, all the soldiers who are fighting for that.”

The holiday begins the evening of April 30 and ends at sundown May 1. The day consists of visits to cemeteries to honor loved ones and a ceremony in the evening at Israel’s national cemetery, Mount Herzl, which signals the end of the holiday and the start of Independence Day.

Rabbi Aderet Drucker leads attendees in prayer for Yom HaZikaron. Nicole Reisinger/Mitzpeh.
Rabbi Aderet Drucker leads attendees in prayer for Yom HaZikaron. Nicole Reisinger/Mitzpeh.

The Heise Room was packed with students gathered to commemorate those who were lost.

Aliza Silverman, a sophomore Jewish studies major, said, “It’s important to come together so everyone can recognize that those who don’t have someone to remember them are going to be remembered by other people.”

Antonov echoed Silverman’s assessment of Yom HaZikaron’s community spirit.

“Judaism is a minority religion, it’s going to continue being a minority religion, so it’s more important for us more than ever to band together and do things together,” said Antonov.

To replicate the sirens that sound throughout Israel to signal the commencement of Yom HaZikaron, event staff sounded one to begin Hillel’s ceremony. The event opened with a recitation of Yizkor in both Hebrew and English, followed by a song performed by student Ophir Gal.

Yuval Reiss, a computer science major, shared his experience as a sergeant in the Israeli Defense Forces and how he lost friends in operation Protective Edge, a 51-day Gaza operation in 2014 that resulted in 64 Israeli casualties. To further illuminate the sacrifices made by Israel’s soldiers, attendees watched a video that honored the legacy of Staff Sgt. Michael Levin, a paratrooper who died in combat in the second Lebanon War.

A cappella group Kol Sasson performs at Hillel's Yom HaZikaron ceremony May 1. Nicole Reisinger/Mitzpeh.
A cappella group Kol Sasson performs at Hillel’s Yom HaZikaron ceremony May 1. Nicole Reisinger/Mitzpeh.

“I’m Israeli, so I have a lot of friends in Israel who are soldiers right now who are serving. My dad was in the army, both of my aunts were in the army,” said Antonov. “I know of people who have (lost someone) and it’s not easy. I don’t like to think about how it might happen to someone that I know who is right now serving.”

The ceremony was filled with moving readings and performances to offer remembrance. Shira Gabay, a Jewish Agency for Israel fellow, read “Life Does Not Go On,” an emotional poem by Yair Lapid about the loss of a brother to war, and a capella group Kol Sasson performed “Bidyuk Mo Hayareach.”

The evening ended with Rabbi Aderet Drucker saying El Malei Rachamim, a prayer for those who are departed, and Kaddish.  
“It seemed like a very Israel-type ceremony where it wasn’t too formal … but at the same time it was serious, no one was laughing or clapping,” said Antonov. “It was very beautifully executed.”

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