By Zachary DuBow
Israel’s annual Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Remembrance or Memorial Day) in commemoration of the country’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror is a solemn occasion on the Israeli calendar. The day begins in the evening, commencing with the blast of air-raid sirens across the nation during which everyone stops and stands in silence. Yom Hazikaron is commemorated by ceremonies across the state, in synagogues, schools and national landmarks, especially those which hold a special place in Israel’s fight for its independence and continued survival.
Once a military post in Jordanian-controlled eastern Jerusalem, Ammunition Hill is now an Israeli national memorial site after it was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
This year, on the eve of Israel’s 75th Independence Day to be observed on the following day, Ammunition Hill saw more than 1,300 people enter its grounds for the Yom Hazikaron ceremony hosted by Jewish National Fund-USA and The Michael Levin Base.
“The event tonight held at Ammunition Hill is a meaningful one and at an appropriate location to commemorate the memorial day,” said Rose Barlow from San Rafael, Calif., national co-chair for the Nefesh B’Nefesh task force.
The attendees included a large contingent from Jewish National Fund-USA’s Israel@75 Mission, visiting Israel to participate in this special and historic week.
“This is our first big mission since COVID,” said Deena Shiff, Jewish National Fund-USA chief of staff. “We are so excited to be here celebrating Israel’s 75th anniversary this week, and observing Yom Hazikaron at Ammunition Hill.”
Ammunition Hill’s Head of Operations Alon Wald stood at the microphone during the siren, waited for it to end, then laid the groundwork for the night’s event: “I am a child of Ammunition Hill, the battle that paved the way for a united Jerusalem.” Alon’s late father, Capt. Rami Wald of the 55th Paratroopers Brigade, was killed in action while leading his unit in the battle for Ammunition Hill when Alon was just 10 months old.
“We remember the 36 soldiers who fell in the battle for Ammunition Hill, the 182 who fell in the campaign for Jerusalem and the 779 who fell in the Six-Day War. We also memorialize the more than 24,000 lives that have been taken from us in countless wars, operations and terror attacks.”
For a nation that suffered 6 million deaths in the Holocaust less than a century ago, one might think the Jewish people don’t mourn each and every death. It’s actually the opposite, and that is our strength.
“Every life is precious and sacred,” declared Jewish National Fund-USA CEO Russell F. Robinson as he addressed the packed crowd.
The ceremony emphasized the contributions made by lone soldiers—Israeli soldiers who volunteered from abroad and have no immediate family in Israel—like the fallen Michael Levin. His father, Mark Levin, delivered an emotional account of his own experiences as Michael’s father and the sacrifices he made.
He captured the heroic efforts of Israel’s soldiers, both those who volunteer from overseas and those who draft from home in Israel, and it had a powerful effect on the audience.
“Every time I come, it’s very meaningful and it’s so moving to see the stones that our forefathers walked on and our soldiers defended,” said Morris Flaum of Los Angeles. “I’ve never been to a service like this one at Ammunition Hill. It’s incredibly meaningful to be remembering the thousands of soldiers who have given their lives so Israel can be great.”
The event also featured performances by the musical duo Yonina and a procession of Israeli war veterans whose grandchildren are currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Both grandfather and grandchild proudly walked the stage, representing both Israel’s past and future.
It was a poignant evening and a highlight of the Jewish National Fund-USA week-long mission.
“I’ve been waiting four years to go on this mission,” said Kathleen Darrow from Scottsdale, Ariz. “I’m on the Gaza Envelope task force and can’t wait to go south and see our people there and the terrific programs and buildings we’ve funded. We are so lucky to be able to participate in this mission, and tonight’s event is such an incredible occasion, seeing the soldiers and appreciating the freedom of Israel.”