Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut: Two Holidays or One?
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Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut: Two Holidays or One?

Lesson Summary:

This lesson focuses on two very important holidays celebrated in Israel, one very somber in nature, the other a celebration of Israel’s independence.  Students are encouraged to consider why Israel pairs these two holidays, rather than recognize them at different times in the year.  In addition, the significance of Israeli’s military and the courage of its troops will be examined.

Enduring Understandings:

  • Israel is the Jewish homeland 
  • Israel cannot exist with the IDF (Israel Defense Force)
  • Israel relies on support physically and emotionally from Jews around the world 
  • Zachor, meaning to remember, is a core Jewish value in happy and sad occasions
  • Israel combines Memorial and Independence Day to commemorate their past and shape their future


Students will be able to:

  • compare and contrast Memorial Day in the United State with Yom Ha’Zikaron in the State of Israel in terms of customs, rituals, and significance.
  • compare and contract Independence Day in the United States with Yom Ha’Atzmaut in Israel in terms of customs, rituals, and significance.
  • explain why the two holidays are currently recognized on consecutive days and consider whether Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut should follow one another on the calendar or be held at different times.
  • determine the importance of Israel’s military and its connection to the country’s creation and independence.

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Materials and resourcesmore


  • 5x8 index cards-two per student
  • Black and White Israeli Flags Coloring Page (see template below) 
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils 
  • Pencil 
  • Lined Paper 
  • Print outs of IDF and other Israeli symbols for students to use on their flags 


Siren Stops All of Israel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeozUSWdoQA 

Israel Celebrates 70: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIES_N81r-8 

Israeli songs --Youtube. Favorites to search include: Golden Boy, Zahav, Tutu Bom, Tzofim Classics


[Note: This lesson may be completed over 2-4 class periods based on grade level, class needs/abilities, and the depth of learning you believe to be appropriate.

Display the following prompts on the board before students enter the classroom:

“What do you know about Memorial Day in the U.S in terms of significance, customs and rituals?

“What do you know about Independence Day in the U.S.?

Distribute two 5x8 index cards to each student.  Have students respond to each prompt using a different card. Label one “Memorial Day” and the other, “Independence Day”

Create a 4-column chart on the board. Label the columns: Memorial Day (US), Independence Day (US), Yom Ha’Zikaron (Israel), Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel). As students share their thoughts about these holidays, record their responses on the chart in the appropriate columns.

Ask students to look over the columns and ask them what they noticed-similarities, differences, attitudes, etc. between the ways in which the two countries recognize and celebrate these two important days.  (Many students will list parades, fireworks, barbeques, shopping sprees, sales, etc.  Some will mention the military, and soldiers who risked and often lost their lives to help create the State of Israel and to protect its citizens.)


The Two Holidays:
Review the fact that in Israel, Memorial Day, Yom Ha’Zikaron, is very different than the United States.
As they watch and then discuss the siren video in which ALL of Israel comes to a complete stop, ask them to record any special observations or thoughts on the first index card.

Ask students why they think this siren wails for two full minutes? For what purpose does everyone stop and listen? 

Point out that even cars driving on the highway stop to pay respect.

Provide students with some background history:

Explain that TV stations cancel regular programming and show a scrolling list of names all day of those who lost their lives serving in the IDF or in a terror attack 

Remind students that all Israelis at a certain age are required to serve in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

For grades that have not had much exposure give a brief summary of Israel’s history of conflicts beginning with 1948 to modern times. This will vary based on grade and background.

On the second index card, have students write what they notice about Yom Ha’Atzmaut in this video: 

Discuss the difference in mood between Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut 

Discuss mood chart

Ask students:

“What mood would you think would be natural for Israelis on each of these days?” 

"Why do you think Israelis would experience these moods? 

"Ask students to imagine what it must be like to transition from one holiday to the next. What must it be like for students? What about parents who lost a loved one? What about soldiers?  

II. Two Holidays or One? 

Remind students that Jewish holidays begin at Sunset

Tell students that Yom Ha’Zikaron ends at the exact moment Yom Ha’Atzmaut begins.
Display the following prompt:

“Do you think Israel should separate Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut on the calendar? Why or why not? In your response consider the questions, “Why are they currently placed together?” and “Who is impacted by these days? “

Distribute the graphic organizer for “Opinion Writing” to help students organize their thoughts and ideas before responding to the prompt:

Have them put the prompt in the “Topic” section.
Have students fill out each category of evidence. Remind students that evidence from this lesson can come from the videos they watched, the classroom discussion, and the teacher’s explanation.
Have students elaborate on each question by adding their own thoughts.
Have students look over their evidence and elaboration to reach a conclusion.

After writing their conclusions:

Have students share with a partner (s) and then allow a few to share with the entire class. [Note: For those teachers who wish to have students create a more detailed “response to prompt,” they can follow the format of “Writing Workshop” -students share their writing with partners, edit one another’s work, revise, and then invite students to share their final paper with the entire class.]


Flag Decorating Activity:  While there is no right or wrong to “conclusions” reached during the above lesson, you may wish to explain to students why Israel has made an intentional choice to pair a holiday that commemorates the lives of those who fell defending the land of Israel with a day that celebrates the freedom of Israel, which, to this day, soldiers continue to defend.  These holidays run into each other intentionally for without one you cannot have the other. 

  • Provide time for students to create a special flag for Israel-one that can be “flown” each year during Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut as a way of respecting and honoring all those who have fought for a Jewish Homeland and continue to fight to keep its people safe and free.

Saying “Thank You” to Our Soldiers

  • Inform students that some American citizens (though not required) make the decision to join the IDF to help defend the State of Israel, a land they love.
  • These “lone soldiers” often have no family or friends in Israel when they first arrive. 
  • Have students write letters to these soldiers thanking them for their service and for keeping the Jewish homeland safe and free Have students create their own flag. (Recommendation: use card-stock rather than paper.) Encourage students to use their own creativity to reflect their thoughts and feelings regarding these two holidays. [Review format of a friendly letter as necessary.]
Mailing the Letters:   Addressing and sending the letters: I send these letters to friends of mine in the IDF. You can find information on lone soldiers by contacting Friends of the IDF (even if your chapter isn’t listed, most of the chapters will be more than happy to support this cause!) https://www.fidf.org/contact-us 


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore

Evidence of Learningmore

  • Students should articulate clearly the connection between the two holidays 
  • Collect opinion essay and assess for evidence of fully formed opinion, transitions, and elaboration 
  • Friendly letters will reflect proper formatting, also check for spelling/conventions as these count as published pieces.
  • Student discussion articulates an understanding of the two holidays, their significance, customs, and traditions.
  • Student flags clearly reflect the connection between the two holidays. 
  • Opinion Chart and Conclusion reflect evidence of fully formed opinions based on information learned, reflection, and elaboration.
  • Letter to our soldiers in the IDF reflect understanding of the enormous dedication, sacrifice, and accomplishments.   Letters are formatted correctly and edited for spelling/conventions (as these count as “published” pieces). 


literature connectionsmore

TitleAuthorIllustratorBook Summary
Keeping Israel Safe: Serving in the Israel Defense Forces Sofer, Barbara Four different experiences told through the voices of individual Israeli teenagers, two girls and two boys, preparing to enter Israeli military service recount the history and many levels and opportunities available for youth reaching the required draft age.
Homeland: The Illustrated History of the State of Israel. Wolfman, MarvMario RuizThis over-sized graphic non-fiction volume begins with Biblical Israel, proceeds through Jewish history, the creation of the modern state of Israel, the wars, the Intifada, Arab terrorism, efforts toward peace, and includes the broad contemporary accomplishments of Israelis in various fields.
* PJ library Books
Lesson Contributors

Philip Nathanson, Temple Beth Am Day School, Miami, FL