The State of Israel's independence*, as well as its continued survival, is a modern day miracle. But, it has come at great cost in human lives to its citizens. (There have been over 24,293 fallen soldiers since the State of Israel was founded.) Therefore, before Israel celebrates its independence, Israel honors the memory of those who gave their lives for their country. On the 4th of Iyar, Yom Ha'zikaron, Memorial Day is observed.
Memorial Day in Israel is not a day of picnics, fairs and fireworks. To honor the fallen soldiers, sirens are sounded simultaneously throughout the entire country for one minute, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. As the alarm pierces the air, all traffic comes to a halt and everyone stands for a moment of silence in honor of those who have fallen.
What is the purpose of silence? Speech is one of humankind’s most powerful tools and is one of the traits that humanity “shares” with God. It was with the power of speech that God created the world. (“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”) People use their power of speech to connect with each other. Observing a minute of silence forces us to disconnect from those around us and to reflect on both the void created by these great losses, and the miracle of our own survival.