Yom Hazikaron is the national remembrance day observed in Israel for those who fell since 1860, when Jews were first allowed to live in Palestine outside of Jerusalem's Old City walls.National memorial services are held in the presence of Israel's top leadership and military personnel. The day opens with a siren the preceding evening at 20:00 (8:00 pm), given that in the Hebrew calendar system, a day begins at sunset. The siren is heard all over the country and lasts for one minute, during which Israelis stop everything (including driving, which stops highways) and stand in silence, commemorating the fallen and showing respect. Many religious Jews say prayers for the souls of the fallen soldiers at this time. The official ceremony to mark the opening of the day takes place at the Western Wall, and the flag of Israel is lowered to half staff.
A two-minute siren is sounded at 11:00 the following morning, which marks the opening of the official memorial ceremonies and private remembrance gatherings at each cemetery where soldiers are buried. Many Israelis visit the resting places of loved ones throughout the day. The day officially draws to a close between 19:00 and 20:00 (7–8 p.m.) with the official ceremony of Israel Independence Day at the national military cemetery on Mount Herzl, when the flag of Israel is returned to full staff.
Scheduling Yom Hazikaron right before Yom Ha-Atzma'ut is intended to remind people of the price paid for independence and of what was achieved with the soldiers' sacrifice. This transition shows the importance of this day among Israelis, most of whom have served in the armed forces or have a connection with people who were killed during their military service.
In 1949 and 1950, the first two years after the declaration of the State, memorial services for soldiers who fell in the War of Independence were held on Independence Day. Services at military cemeteries were coordinated between the IDF and the Ministry of Defense. A concern arose, expressed by families of fallen soldiers, to establish a separate memorial day observance distinct from the festive celebrations of national independence. In response, and in light of public debate on the issue, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion - also serving as Minister of Defense - established in January 1951 the "Public Council for Soldiers' Commemoration". This council recommended establishing the 4th of Iyyar, the day preceding Independence Day, as the "General Memorial Day for the Heroes of the War of Independence". This proposal won government approval that same year.