Reflections on Yom HaZikaron & Yom Ha'atzmaut

Reflections on Yom HaZikaron & Yom Ha'atzmaut

“If you are reading these words, something probably happened to me,” wrote Elkana Vizel, a 35-year-old Israeli husband and father of four.

The letter, which Elkana wrote to his family in the event of his death, was released to the public after he fell in service to his country on January 22nd. Its text speaks volumes of the remarkable heroism and self-sacrifice of Israelis, which Jews worldwide will honour as we mark Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) this evening at sundown.

“Don’t be sad when you part from me,” wrote Elkana. “Sing a lot, hold each other’s hands, and strengthen one another. We have so much to be excited and happy about—we are the generation of Jewish redemption! We are writing the most meaningful moments in the history of our people and of the whole world. So please be optimistic. Keep choosing life all the time—a life of love, hope, purity, and optimism.”

Elkana’s words are all the more powerful in light of the pain and loss Israelis and Jews worldwide have grappled with since October 7th. More than 1,400 Israeli victims of terror and service members have been killed since that terrible day—the deadliest in the country’s history. Thousands more have been wounded, many of whom will never be whole from life-altering trauma and injuries. And more than 100 continue to be held hostage by terrorists in Gaza.

While Yom HaZikaron is always sombre, never before have the wounds been as deep or as raw as they are today throughout Israeli society. But that’s why Elkana’s message matters this year more than ever.

His poignant words remind us that, for the Jewish people, memory and mourning are followed by celebration—because gratitude is essential if we are to truly value our blessings. And while there are many threats facing the Jewish people today, we are fortunate to be blessed with a free, strong, and democratic Jewish state. We are living the reality our ancestors dreamed of for 2,000 years—and we do so with the appreciation that freedom is anything but free.

Together, we will join Israelis on an emotional rollercoaster over the next two days. Just as we light candles and mourn on Yom HaZikaron, we will quickly transition to celebration as the sun goes down tomorrow night and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) begins. May we experience these two days with renewed appreciation and dedication, inspired by the example of Elkana and the legacy of every Israeli we remember today.


Jeff Rosenthal

Chair of the Board


Adam Minsky
President & CEO

PS: If you haven’t done so yet, we also encourage you to mark your calendars and register to join us at the Walk with Israel on June 9th. Together, we will gather to show our support for Israel and demonstrate our strength as one united community.