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This is Memorial Day in Israel: at 8 PM on the Third of Iyar, every air-raid siren in the country goes off. Everyone stops working. Cars stop on the highways and the streets. Conversation stops. The TV and radio are carrying the same signal. For about two minutes, the sirens continue and nothing else happens. Most of us are thinking about fallen family members, friends, brothers in arms.

From now until tomorrow evening, the radio will play nothing but sad songs. Melancholy music. Some of it is modern mopy stuff, but most of it is the old Israeli music. At 11 AM the next morning, another siren-assisted moment of silence and introspection. Following this, there will be memorial ceremonies at all the cemeteries.

As soon as Yom HaZikharon (Memorial Day) is over tomorrow evening, Independence Day (Yom HaAtzma'ut) begins. Now we can have the barbies, the happy music, the flag-waving and the drunken festivities. Every celebration of independence is preceded by a day of remembering the ones who died for that independence, historical and recent.

This is the most depressing "holiday" I can imagine. But I wouldn't have Memorial Day any other way. Nothing unifies a country like an air-raid siren.

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