Memorial Day in the U.S. is known as the "Unofficial Start of Summer." Families and friends get together for barbecues, go the beach, take advantage of sales at the malls, and enjoy a day off from work. Very few of us take the time to realize what Memorial Day is all about. It's a time to remember those who have given their lives protecting our country and to thank living veterans for their service. We see coverage on TV of the President laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but how many of us go to Memorial Day observance in our town? I admit, I'm just as guilty of this. I went for run, I'm enjoying the time with my family, having a barbecue, and playing poker with my buddies.
When I was studying abroad in Israel, I remember observing Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron) in Israel. It is so much different. I forget the exact time it occurs, but at some point during the day a siren is sounded throughout the country. People literally stop what their doing and pause for 2 minutes to remember the soldiers who have given their lives to keep Israel safe from their enemies. I was on a bus to Jerusalem when the siren sounded. Everyone on the highway stopped their cars, got out and observed a 2 minutes moment of silence right there on the highway. It's a sight that I won't forget.
I think the main difference between how Americans and Israelies observe Memorial Day is this: In Israel, there is mandatory military service. At the age of 18 every boy and girl are required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Every Israeli knows a soldier that has given their life or is currently serving in the IDF. Here in the U.S. it is a lot less personal. Speaking for myself, I don't have anyone close to me who served in the military. Whatever you are doing this Memorial Day weekend, please take a moment to remember those who served and are currently protecting this great country of ours and if you see a veteran of any war, please thank them for serving.