Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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NU Hillel honors Israeli fallen soldiers, victims of terrorism at Yom HaZikaron ceremony

Kelley Lu/The Daily Northwestern
NU Hillel President Sari Eisen introduced the speakers of the ceremony.

Northwestern Hillel hosted a Yom HaZikaron ceremony for Israel Memorial Day on Monday as part of the organization’s Israel Peace and Reflection Week programming. 

The holiday traditionally honors those who lost their lives defending the state of Israel and has been extended to commemorate victims of terrorism, Hillel’s Executive Director Michael Simon said at the ceremony.

“The victims of terror are not just names that you hear in the news,” Simon said. “Sometimes they’re names of people who were loved by someone you know, who loved someone you know.” 

Israel Peace and Reflection Week programming also includes a “We Will Dance Again” dance party and a speaker event about the media’s portrayal of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel with Gil Hoffman (Medill ’99), executive director of HonestReporting. 

“It’s great to be able to celebrate Jewish joy and pride in the State of Israel, but also with that comes significant loss and mourning,” said Medill sophomore and Wildcats for Israel President Madeleine Stern, a former Daily staffer. “With the Yom HaZikaron ceremony, that’s certainly a time to reflect and commemorate the lives that are lost.”

The number of lost lives honored during Yom HaZikaron this year “has risen more in the past year than any other time in decades,” Simon said. He added that the number includes civilian casualties from Israel and Palestine. 

Israel continues a ground and air offensive in Gaza, which has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian authorities. The offensive comes after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which killed about 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities.

Stern said this year’s Yom HaZikaron ceremony mourns the lives lost during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. 

“Being the bloodiest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust, there’s been a significant loss of life and a significant amount of trauma and mourning,” Stern said. “So I think a lot of people are going to look at this holiday and this ceremony in a sort of different light with a new sort of grief and pain.”

During the event, speakers shared memories and stories of their lost ones through speeches, poems and stories. 

Tel Aviv University exchange student and ex-Israel Defense Forces soldier Rotem Feraru spoke at the ceremony and dedicated her speech to a soldier who lost his life to an anti-tank missile. 

“On this day, we’re honoring 25,040 heroes that gave their lives in the mission to protect Israel. We can never forget that behind every single one, there is a story that our families and friends left behind,” Feraru said. “Because of brave people like (them), I get to live safely in my home, and I will forever be thankful for that.” 

The ceremony concluded with the audience singing together “Hatikvah,” the national anthem of Israel. 

Stern said it’s important to have space to gather in a community to mourn. She added that Hillel has staff available during lunches throughout the week to help navigate students’ feelings of grief. 

“Every life lost is a tragedy, and being able to mourn together is more powerful, more emotional and it shows how we all have each other’s backs,” Stern said. “People should feel really comfortable opening up and speaking about whatever may be on their mind.”

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