Yom HaZikaron: On Israel Memorial Day, we remember those who fought and died in the struggle for Israel’s establishment and independence and throughout its history. While some today also recall those who have been murdered by acts of terrorism, the day focuses upon all military personnel who were killed while in active duty in Israel’s armed forces.
Yom Hazikaron is followed immediately by Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day (see below), so the two days are inseparably linked. Joining these two days together conveys a simple message: Israelis owe the independence and the very existence of the Jewish state to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it.
Yom HaAtzmaut: Israel Independence Day celebrates the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel on the 5 of Iyyar, 5708, corresponding to May 14, 1948, the end of the British Mandate and the beginning of Jewish self-rule once again in our ancient homeland.
Here at CAH, we hold services on the nearest Shabbat with our own unique special liturgy that recalls and celebrates Israel’s independence, resilience, and spirit with special readings, classic Israel songs, Israeli food, and more. We use this time to honor the modern-day martyrs of the State of Israel as well.
Yom Yerushalayim: Jerusalem Day, commemorates the moment during the Six-Day War of 1967 when Israel regained the oldest section of Jerusalem (עיר העתיקה, Ir Ha’Atikah, or the Old City). The Old City contains the most sacred and historically significant sites for the Jewish people, including the כתל המערבי, the Western Wall, the site of the ancient Temple (see below on the fast day of Tishah B’Av). The surrounding countries had threatened to “drive the Jews into the sea,” and early news reports seemed to confirm this narrative, but the swift and decisive victory by Israel is seen as a miracle, akin to the miracle of Hanukkah, when the few also overthrew the many and the weak overcame the strong.
At CAH, we hold services on the closest Shabbat with our own unique liturgy, replete with readings, poetry, and special songs to honor and celebrate the importance of Jerusalem in Jewish life and tradition, as well as celebrating the incorporation of Jerusalem’s holy places officially into Israel’s map.
We have sometimes marked the following Israeli holidays, particularly in special anniversary years: Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Day, Sigd (Ethiopian Jewish holy day marking the fiftieth day after Yom Kippur), Aliyah Day (celebrating the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel), and Herzl Day (celebrating the great Zionist visionary and pioneer).
SHOAH (Holocaust) COMMEMORATION DAYS
Kristallnacht Commemoration: The Nazi government staged a pogrom (government-sponsored attack) against all Jewish communities of Greater Germany (Germany, Austria, and part of Czechoslovakia) on the night of November 9-10, 1938. Virtually every synagogue was attacked, with some 267 destroyed. Over 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed, some 30,000 Jewish men deported to concentration camps, and hundreds of Jews murdered. Historians consider this the beginning of the end of European Jewry.
Here at CAH we mark Kristallnacht on the nearest Shabbat, with special services, readings, testimonies, poetry, and music to recall and to honor.
Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day): Yom HaShoah is a day to remember the horrific time when six million Jews, and millions of others, were murdered by the Nazis, and abetted by senseless hatred and apathy. It is also a day to recommit ourselves to building a world of love and peace, so that a Holocaust will “never again” occur.
At Am HaYam, we have our own unique liturgy, which highlights testimonies, poetry, music, history, and more, so that we honor the survivors as well as the victims, that we “never forget” and that we take the responsibility to build a better world.
At CAH, we sometimes also mark, on the nearest Shabbat, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, held by many countries, on January 27, which marks the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.
Tu B’Shevat: Once a day that demarcated the season for tithing crops, Tu B’Shevat (the fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Shevat), known as the New Year for Trees, has been renewed in several ways. It is a day to celebrate the land of Israel, which the early Zionist pioneers helped transform from wasteland to one of fruitfulness and beauty. We eat fruits (and other foods) to link ourselves to the people of Israel. It has also been a day for planting trees, whether in Israel (through the Jewish National Fund) or here, often done in memory of or in honor of loved ones. It is now considered the “Jewish Earth Day,” a day to recognize the beauty and importance of nature, and to recommit ourselves to work toward sustainable solutions to the manifold problems caused by climate change.
At CAH, we hold a Tu B’Shevat seder (an analog to a Passover seder), with our own unique liturgy, that celebrates the שבע מינים, the sheva minim, the Seven Species that are typical of the land of Israel. It contains readings, lore, poetry, music, and more to help us honor our relationship to the land.
Tisha B’Av: The Jewish national “Memorial Day” commemorates many tragedies that occurred on or near this date. As such it is observed as a day of communal fasting and mourning, and is sometimes called the Black Fast. [It differs dramatically from Yom Kippur, our only other full fast day, which is more of a personal fast day for self-improvement and is sometimes referred to as the White Fast.]
Among the many tragedies Tishah B’Av recalls are the destruction of the First (King Solomon’s) Temple in 586 BCE by the Babylonians and our people’s expulsion from the land of Israel; the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE by the Romans; the quelling of the Bar Kochba revolt against the cruel Romans in 135 CE, during which some 500,000 Jews were killed; the Crusades of the medieval period when many Jewish communities were destroyed; the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290; the expulsion of the Jews from France in 1306; the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492; and the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal in 1496. Many recall the Shoah (Holocaust) in their Tishah B’Av commemoration, as the Final Solution was made official by the Nazis in 1941 on Tishah B’Av, and in 1943 deportations began from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka.
At CAH, we hold special services, that include our own unique booklets with special readings, piyyutim (poetry), testimony, and music which allow us to reflect on the survival and resilience of our people, and to recommit our energies to our people and to forging a world out of “senseless love” to combat the “senseless hate” that leads to acts of antisemitism, racism, and other forms of hate.
Here is a link to a listing of major events which fell directly on Tishah B’Av or on a date very close to Tishah B’Av. Others still were events that occurred over time and became linked to Tishah B’Av, as the day to remember the hate directed at us and the suffering we endured.