The next morning Yom HaZikaron continues. While it is still a work and school day, there is a special discernible atmosphere of mourning in the streets, places of work and schools. At 11:00 in the morning the air raid siren sounds again for 2 minutes and everything again stops: work stops, school stops, driving stops, conversation stops as we stand in silent reverence to the fallen.
During the entirety of Yom HaZikaron Israeli television and radio stations either stop broadcasting or only broadcast programs honoring the fallen soldiers. One of the national television stations broadcasts a continuous stream of photographs of every fallen soldier. In Israel there is national conscription, therefore, nearly all citizens have served in the IDF. Being a small country, almost everyone knows a soldier or family of a soldier who sacrificed his or her life.
Yom HaZikaron draws to a conclusion with an official ceremony on Mount Herzel. The Israel flag is raised to full-staff and HaTikvah, Israel's National Anthem, is sung. As this sorrowful day fades into the night we begin the next holiday, Yom HaAtzmaut, Independence Day.
In contrast to the previous day of mourning, Yom HaAtzmaut is a time of festivity. The evening is spent celebrating with parties and festivals which include fireworks, food, Israeli folk dancing, musical shows, and performances by children.
The following morning begins is a national holiday so schools, businesses and government offices are closed. Families connect together having picnics and barbecues and enjoying the nature of Israel. IDF bases are open for tours and there are patriotic parades. Despite all the struggles that still face the State of Israel, there is an enveloping feeling of optimism on this day.
The scheduling of Memorial Day and Independence Day as back-to-back holidays was deliberate. It was intended to remind all citizens of the price of freedom and independence. First we mourn their loss; then we celebrate the independence of Israel as another way to thank those who gave their lives defending her.
As we depart Independence Day we are left with somewhat overwhelming feelings of loss and joy. We pray for the continued existence of the State of Israel, that all our conflicts will be resolved, that the next generation will not be asked to give the ultimate sacrifice, and for the strength of all Israelis to continue to persevere.