A study conducted by psychologists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reveals that Holocaust Remembrance Days contribute to reducing affective polarization among groups within the same national identity but with differing political perspectives, fostering unity among Israelis.

Annually, on the 27th day of the month of Nissan (in 2024, falling on May 5-6), Israel observes Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the six million Jews who perished during World War II at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. During the sounding of the siren (occurring on May 6 at 10 a.m.), both people and vehicles come to a halt as Israelis pay respects to the deceased.

Typically, official commemorations possess a drawback: over time, they become routine, evoking not sympathy but rather irritation.

To gauge Israeli reactions to Remembrance Day and its impact on intergroup dynamics, psychologists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem conducted a study from 2019 to 2022, a period marked by heightened political tensions in the country.

Examining the influence of collective grief on affective polarization among groups sharing the same national identity but differing political affiliations, psychologists delved into the emotional dynamics surrounding sadness. In contemporary society, where displaying positive emotions is encouraged, sadness remains stigmatized. However, official commemorations provide a platform for expressing genuine sorrow without reservation.

In the journal Political Psychology, psychologists note that sadness fosters group cohesion and promotes intergroup contact by prompting individuals to seek social connections and become more attuned to others' verbal and nonverbal cues. Moreover, sadness engenders self-reflection and critical examination of stereotypes and propaganda.

In surveys involving 517 volunteers conducted before, during, and after Memorial Day, participants were queried about their emotional state and attitudes toward political adversaries.

The findings suggest that sadness predominates among Israelis on Remembrance Day. Affective polarization reaches its nadir on Memorial Day, subsequently resurging but not immediately or to pre-Memorial Day levels.

The researchers posit that collective sadness may have played a pivotal evolutionary role, facilitating the survival of human communities by mitigating conflict and fostering readiness for collective action.