Hundreds mourn Israel’s fallen at United Synagogue Yom Hazikaron commemoration

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Hundreds mourn Israel’s fallen at United Synagogue Yom Hazikaron commemoration

'This year our pain is particularly deep and our sorrow, enormous' says Chief Rabbi whilst Ambassador Hotovely says British lone soldiers 'are the very best of us'

Chazan Avromi Freilich says the azkara, memorial prayer, after HGSS youth light memorial candles. Yom Hazikaron, May 2024. Pic: Bernard Fromson
Chazan Avromi Freilich says the azkara, memorial prayer, after HGSS youth light memorial candles. Yom Hazikaron, May 2024. Pic: Bernard Fromson

More than 500 people gathered in Hampstead Garden Suburb United Synagogue (HGSS) on Monday evening to commemorate Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror.

The ceremony took on extra significance following the appalling events of October 7, as teenagers from HGSS youth lit memorial candles in memory of those who fell in defence of the State of Israel and the yishuv prior to 1948 and in memory of the victims of terror.

The Chief Rabbi said: “Yom Hazikaron is always an exceptionally difficult day for all of us. This year our pain is particularly deep and our sorrow, enormous. In addition to remembering those who have fallen since the War of Independence and thereafter, this year we recall all those murdered on October 7 together with the soldiers who have fallen in defence of the State of Israel in the past seven months.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Yom Hazikaron, May 2024, HGSS. Pic: Bernard Fromson

“On the festival of Chanukah we have a custom in Israel to say ‘Nes gadol haya po’ – ‘a great miracle happened here’ and in the diaspora we say ‘Nes gadol haya sham’ – ‘a great miracle happened there’. But actually right now there is no there and here – we’re all part of one global family in sorrow for our losses. And in the same way that Yom Hazikaron gives way to Yom Ha’atzmaut, so may Hashem bless us to take us from sorrow to happiness and to give us peace and security in the future.”

In a video message the Israeli Ambassador, Tzipi Hotovely, said: “Yom Hazikaron offers Jewish people around the world a day to unite in mourning and remembrance of our brave heroes. Nothing embodies the unbreakable bond between Jews around the world and the State of Israel better than the stories of the lone soldiers who have left their families and communities to defend the world’s only Jewish state. I choose to honour them, the British lone soldiers, today. They are the very best of us. I pray, too, for all the remarkable men and women who are currently serving in Israel, fighting to keep the Israeli people safe.

“I also want to thank the Chief Rabbi and the United Synagogue, not only for the event this evening but for your friendship and support since October 7. It means so much to people of Israel.”

Left to right: Rabbi Luis Herszaft, HGSS’ Community Rabbi, Chazan Avromi Freilich and Rabbi Marc Levene, Senior Rabbi of HGSS, sing the prayer for the well-being of the soldiers of the IDF. Pic: Bernard Fromson

The evening featured a number of contributions from Israel including reflections from Rabbi Doron Perez, executive chairman of the Mizrachi World Movement, whose son, Daniel was killed in Nahal Oz, Israel by Hamas on October 7. As Rabbi Perez noted, he, like so many other families was marking Yom Hazikaron because of personal loss for the first time.

The parents of Nathaniel Young, a young British-born lone soldier who was killed by Hamas in the October 7 attacks, spoke about their son’s desire to live in Israel ever since he was a young boy growing up in Cockfoster and New Southgate United Synagogue, where his parents were members for 40 years. They have since made aliya following the loss of their son.

Aharon Chapper, the son of Rabbi Alex and Eva Chapper of Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue, is an IDF reservist and lone soldier. He spoke about how much comfort the British Jewish community has brought Israel through its support sending parcels and goods, together with the many visits from solidarity groups.

Tehilla Gan Tzvi, one of the B’not Sherut (young women doing Israeli National Service) working with Tribe and South Hampstead Synagogue, spoke movingly about her cousin David Schwartz who died in Gaza in January.

The service can be watched online at any time here.

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