Yom Ha-Shoah

Shoah is a Hebrew word meaning catastrophe or devastation. Yom Hashoah was established by Israel as a yearly memorial day* for those who died in the Nazi holocaust in 1951 when the Israeli Parliament—the Knesset—appointed the 27th of Nissan to be “Holocaust and ghetto revolt remembrance day” (Yom Hashoah U’Mered HaGetaot). This later became known as “Devastation and heroism day” (Yom Hashoah Ve Hagevurah), and, finally, Yom Hashoah.

In 1959 the Knesset made Yom Hashoah a national public holiday and in 1961 a law was passed that closed all public entertainment in Israel on the day. At ten in the morning, a siren is sounded and people stop what they are doing, pull over their cars if they are driving, and stand in remembrance.

Elsewhere Yom Hashoah is observed with the lighting of candles—often six to represent the six million Jews who died—poems, prayers, and singing. Holocaust survivors speak about their experiences or share in the readings; in some places people read from a compilation of names of those killed as a sign of respect and to keep their memory alive.

*Many other countries have a Holocaust Memorial Day in January, an observation that grew out of an international task force that was established in 1998 to consider ways to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.