Yom Hazikaron Ceremony Honours Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism

Jewish Federation, together with the JCC, presents the Yom Hazikaron ceremony in the JCC’s Wosk Auditorium on May 7th at 7:30 p.m. This annual memorial honours Israeli soldiers who have given their lives for their country and civilians who have been killed in terrorist attacks.

Geoffrey Druker has been chairing the committee that plans the ceremony for 25 years. A native of South Africa who grew up in Israel, he said one thing that differentiates the Vancouver ceremony from those in Israel is that it’s presented in Hebrew and translated into English. That’s because the losses recognized on Yom Hazikaron are important not just to Israelis at home and in Canada, but to Jews everywhere. It commemorates the painful losses sustained over many decades in the effort to establish and defend the State of Israel, and Druker wants to encourage more Canadians to come and join our bereaved families and friends.

“I see the community as extended family and when someone is in pain, we want to comfort them. We want to come together, be with them, give them, if you like, a ‘communal hug,’” said Druker, noting that the memorial is about remembering those we lost – it’s not about the wars. “In Israel, entire families come, young and old, because unfortunately, loss has been an ongoing occurrence and affects everyone.”

At this one-hour ceremony, Druker continued, “We show photographs of the individuals we are mourning, provided by our community members who have lost loved ones.”

Bereaved families are asked to participate; every year, a family member or a friend offers personal notes and speaks about the person they lost. This year, one person will speak about his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor who lost her son – his uncle – in war.

 “Unfortunately, wars and terrorism hit everyone,” Druker said. “People might have lost their loved ones years ago. Some lost their loved ones in the War of Independence in 1948; some lost their loved ones during their army service, or in terrorist attacks. Our focus is on local families who’ve lost loved ones.”

This year, bereaved mothers will receive special recognition. Readings, songs performed by local musicians, candle-lighting and the recitation of Kaddish and El Maleh Rahamim will take place. A member of the Israeli government will bring the State of Israel’s message to the bereaved families, and Israeli artist Yoni Rechter, the featured artist at the following evening’s Yom Ha’aztmaut celebration, will close the ceremony with a Yom Hazikaron song.

Admission is free and all are welcome.