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Masa Israel Journey hosts world’s largest English-language Yom Hazikaron ceremony

It united Jews worldwide in remembrance of the victims of terror and fallen Israeli soldiers who sacrificed their lives to protect the State of Israel.

The 16th annual Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) Masa Israel Journey ceremony at Yad L’Shiryon in Latrun, Israel, on May 12, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Masa Israel Journey.
The 16th annual Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) Masa Israel Journey ceremony at Yad L’Shiryon in Latrun, Israel, on May 12, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Masa Israel Journey.

Masa Israel Journey, the leader in global Jewish and Israel-focused programming, commemorated its 16th annual Yom Hazikaron ceremony at Yad L’Shiryon in Latrun, Israel. This event—the largest of its kind conducted in English—attracted more than 5,000 attendees and countless viewers worldwide, honoring Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror.

This year’s observance comes at a particularly poignant time. Following the Oct. 7 massacre, the ongoing war and the sharp rise in antisemitism across the world, Israel and the global Jewish community face profound grief and shock. Under the theme “We Are One,” the ceremony reflected our collective mourning and the resilience necessary to rebuild and maintain hope.

Notable attendees included government representatives Ron Dermer, Israeli minister of strategic affairs; government cabinet secretary Yossi Fuchs; and Jewish leaders like Rebecca Caspi, senior vice president of global operations and director general of the Jewish Federations of North America, Israel; and Amira Ahronoviz, CEO and director general of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Ambassador María Fabiana Loguzzo, Argentina’s special representative for the fight against antisemitism and head of the delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, will be accompanied at the ceremony by Ariel Gelblung, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Latin America.

Masa Yom Hazikaron Ceremony
At the 16th annual Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) ceremony at Yad L’Shiryon in Latrun, Israel, on May 12, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Masa Israel Journey.

They joined Masa Fellows and alumni, board members, delegates from Jewish Federations, bereaved families and community members in honoring the memory of those we have lost.

The ceremony was live-streamed with speeches by Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel; and Yael Sahar Rubinstein, acting CEO of Masa Israel Journey.

“On the eve of Memorial Day, we connect to the living memory of the fallen who linked their fate with the State of Israel, sacrificing their lives to defend and uphold it,” said Almog. “The fallen include olim (new immigrants) from Jewish communities around the world who have stood by Israel in its toughest hour, expressing unconditional love and a deep shared destiny.”

He continued, saying “we will remember the fallen of Israel’s battles with respect, pain, longing and gratitude, and we will do everything to be worthy of their sacrifice. Their legacy will be a monument and an inspiration to the world.”

Masa Yom Hazikaron Ceremony, Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog
Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, at the 16th annual Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) ceremony at Yad L’Shiryon in Latrun, Israel, on May 12, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Masa Israel Journey.

This year’s ceremony shared the stories of:

● Rising Sgt. (posthumously) Omer Balava: America-born combat soldier in the Nahal Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces, who fell in battle on the northern border from Hezbollah fire. He fell on Oct. 20 (6 Cheshvan). Omer was a Masa alum. His father, Eyal, read the Kaddish prayer on behalf of the bereaved families.

● 2nd Sgt. Rose Lubin: Combat soldier in the IDF, border police, killed in a stabbing attack in eastern Jerusalem on Nov. 6 (22 Cheshvan). She fought and defended Kibbutz Sa’ad on Oct. 7. Rose was a Masa alum.

● Capt. Denis Krukhamelov-Veksler: Born in Ukraine. A combat engineering officer in the Yahalom Unit, Combat Engineering Corps, fell in combat in the central Gaza Strip at the age of 32. He fell on Jan. 8 (27 Tevet) as part of “Operation Swords of Iron.” Dennis was a Masa alum.

● Dr. Daniel Levy: Born in Peru. On Oct. 7, he was called to assist the wounded at the clinic of Kibbutz Be’eri, while his wife and young children remained at home. After saving the lives of many injured, the supplies ran out, the terrorists broke in and murdered Levy.

● Dee Family: Lucy, Maia and Rina Dee, Passover 2023, terrorists opened fire on Israeli vehicles at the Hamra Junction in the Jordan Valley. In the car were Lucy (Leah) and her daughters, Maia and Rina Dee, all natives of England. As a result of the shooting, both daughters were pronounced dead at the scene, while Lucy was seriously injured. The doctors fought for her life, but three days later, her death was confirmed.

● Victims of the terror attack in the AMIA Jewish Center in Argentina: On July 18, 1994, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden vehicle at the entrance of the Jewish community building (AMIA) in Buenos Aires. A Lebanese terrorist detonated an explosive device hidden in a van after breaking through the security barriers in the area and blowing himself up at the entrance of the building. The devastating attack resulted in 85 fatalities and more than 300 people wounded.

Masa Yom Hazikaron Ceremony
At the 16th annual Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) ceremony at Yad L’Shiryon in Latrun, Israel, on May 12, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Masa Israel Journey.

Masa alumni and staff honored the memories of their fallen loved ones, including Capt. Rebecca Henrietta Johanna Baruch (The Netherlands); Master Sgt. (Res.) Gal Meir Eizenkot (Israel); Officer Andrei Poshibay (Crimea); Ezra Schwartz (United States); and Eli Kay (South Africa).

During the ceremony, family members of Nathan Leor Hai (France), who tragically fell on Oct. 7, lit the commemorative torch. In tribute, wreaths were laid by bereaved families and representatives from the Israeli government and Knesset. Additionally, a mass prayer for the safe return of hostages will be carried—among them Andrey Kozlov, a Masa alum from Russia who remains captive in Gaza after being kidnapped at the Nova music festival in southern Israel.

Masa Yom Hazikaron Ceremony, Yael Sahar Rubinstein
Yael Sahar Rubinstein, acting CEO of Masa Israel Journey, at the 16th annual Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) ceremony at Yad L’Shiryon in Latrun, Israel, on May 12, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Masa Israel Journey.

“Yom Hazikaron, our Day of Remembrance, is essential to Israel and the Jewish people,” stated Rubinstein. “At Masa, it is extremely important to us that we recognize we are one people—wherever we are—and if there is anything to learn from these past months, it is that we need to stay united. United in remembering and honoring our fallen, united in mourning our losses and united in prevailing.”

“The stories shared here tonight are connected by the values of love, determination, sacrifice and commitment to Israel and the Jewish people,” she said. “This ceremony is for us to focus on the heroes, cherish the world they left behind and try to be worthy of their sacrifice. May their memory be a blessing.”

For more information or to watch the live stream, visit Masa’s Facebook and YouTube.

Masa Yom Hazikaron Ceremony, Ron Dermer
Ron Dermer, Israeli minister of strategic affairs, at the 16th annual Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) ceremony at Yad L’Shiryon in Latrun, Israel, on May 12, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Masa Israel Journey.
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Masa Israel Journey is the largest immersive, long-term educational experience for young adults ages 16 to 40. On its programs that range from two months to a year, Masa offers an authentic, unmediated, and challenging journey into Israeli society, culture, politics and history—and acts as the largest provider for global Jewry to access the finest Israeli businesses, social enterprises and academic institutions. Since its 2004 founding by the Jewish Agency and government of Israel, Masa has served more than 200,000 young people from 60-plus countries. See more at: https://www.masaisrael.org/.
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