Oh, what a difference this year in Jerusalem from last year at this time!
Just a few days after Passover and Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and it is a time of Yom Hazikaron, Remembrance for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror, and Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day.
This year the annual celebrations were back, though with some limitations.
Israel 73 was a time for celebration after a year of lockdowns and isolation.
Extra flags were both flying above and draped along the Knesset Building.
More flags were placed on Israeli government buildings.
Private apartment buildings also were decorated blue and white.
Flags and flowers were seen in Katamon,
and more flags and flowers lined the streets in Nachalot.
This year seemed to have more blue and white than I remembered in past.
And of course, the shops by Machane Yehuda Market were ready.
The Yizkor remembrance symbol, the flower found in Israel, called the Dam HaMacabbim, appears on memorial stickers and pins. The name is derived form the legend that every spot where the flower grows, a drop of blood was spilled. Last year, my pin stayed in a drawer, this year I was able to wear it outside.
Har Herzl was closed last year to mourning families on Yom HaZikaron. This year it was open but limited, so I went on Tuesday to see them setting up for the official memorial ceremony the next morning.
Security was busy working inside, but two of the memorial guides posed outside of the structure which has the names of fallen engraved on its walls.
Har Herzl Military Cemetery was prepared with flags, black ribbons, memorial candles, flowers and a small white plastic stool at each grave.
This colorful wreath was from the Prime Minister’s Office, placed on the grave of Yoni Netanyahu. Closer and less adorned in the photo is the grave is of David Elazar, the ninth Chief of Staff of the IDF, who served from 1972 to 1974.
In the distance is the grey-haired twin brother of Moshe Sabbah, born in Morocco, who fell at age 19. Each stone resting place marks a son, a brother, so many, too many, 18 to 20-year-olds.
Former lone solider Michael Levin’s grave is piled high from visitors’ remembrances.
Another lone soldier, Alex Sasaki, was buried two years ago and is marked by yellow flags placed by visitors. Zechariah Baumel’s brother came to say Tehillim on Tuesday, where the missing-in-action soldier’s remains were finally returned to Israel and providing closure for the family’s ordeal.
So many graves, each with a story, one could wander and wonder for days.
But walking home from Har Herzl through Nayot Park where hundreds of young people were gathering before Yom HaZikaron was a perfect antidote to the mood of the military cemetery.
Again the next morning, groups of young children stood quietly at attention for two minutes at the sound of the memorial siren.
With limited access to Har Herzl on Yom HaZikaron, commemorations were held at smaller cemeteries throughout Israel.
The Givat Ram Cemetery, with the Supreme Court in view, had more flowers and candles and people coming than when I went a few years ago.
This cemetery became active when in 1948, the Jews could no longer get to the Mount of Olives to bury their loved ones as they had for centuries. Some of the old stones are nameless.
Exiting the cemetery to Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, the new Candle Memorial in memory of those who died in the siege of Leningrad is located along the path.
Gan Sacher was prepared for the Yom Haatzmaut mangals, BBQs, with new large metal bins around for the remains of the grilling charcoals.
The official state ceremony for Yom Haatzmaut, begins with a transition from Yizkor, remembering the fallen to the celebrating Independence.
This year again a live audience watched the televised program as well as those at home watching the show. One of the honored torch lighters was Tzipi Harpenes, the principal of AMIT Elaine Silver Technological High School. I visited her school in Beer Sheva and met her, and I can tell you, there is much more to add to her amazing story.
However, there were multiple community ceremonies as well. This one at Ramban shul was not only standing room only, but due to corona restrictions, people stood outside as well.
This was the synagogue of Zechariah Baumel’s family, notice his name was added to the memorial wall on the bottom left.
For many, this was the first time back at the synagogue in over a year. So the welcome back sign was very appropriate.
Inside the ark was draped with flags as the evening service began.
The Great Synagogue was open again, but with limited numbers, the “green pass” and id’s needed to enter.
The memorial flame was at the entrance to the Begin Heritage Center.
The Kotel, Western Wall Plaza, was again the scene of the official start of Yom HaZikaron, with President Rivlin speaking. The corona dividers were gone, but the numbers were still limited on Tuesday night.
Wednesday night at the Kotel, the memorial names were still seen.
But the flag raised and memorial torch extinguished as the Independence Day prayers and celebrations began.
Thousands attended the service, which ending with singing and dancing.
Solitude was only to be found at the Egalitarian section of the Western Wall.
From the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City,
from the Takana Rishona, First Station,
and from Teddy Park the sounds of singing and prayer rang out.
Teddy Park had limited attendance, but that did not stop dancing in the streets as the music in venues was projected outside.
It was hard to get a photo of the crowd at Teddy Park – it was so large.
Community centers, Sultan’s Pool, Safra Square, Gan Sacher were some other locations with live music and celebrants well into the morning hours.
But the real streets were not only full of beautiful music and celebrations.
It was distressing and hard to believe so few people made such noise in their antigovernmental protesting. I would have ignored them but they started up again on Shabbat which was even worse.
But to end a busy week on high notes, the flyover was back again this year.
And fireworks. There were multiple locations. But my only decent photo was this one over Silwan which was lit up for Ramadan.
The beginning of the Muslim Ramadan month and Yom Haatzmaut coincided this year. The walls of the Old City were lit up as we all proceeded home after a night of celebrations.
This year in Jerusalem – so different than last year!
The recording of the national ceremony on Har Herzl – HERE
More Yom HaZikaron images on Facebook HERE
Hope next year to see you on the Jerusalem streets for these special days.