Sunday, April 30, 2017

Memorial Day

Tonight Israel will mark the beginning of Yom HaZikaron - Memorial Day, for those who might not have known. It is a day when the whole nation pays its respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure Israel's freedom. On this day, when the sirens wail, all of Israel will come to a standstill. Buses, cars, pedestrians, all stop. The drivers stand at attention beside their vehicles. It is a day to remember, in a world where memory has become a fleeting thing, so easily discarded or lost.

I see in the news that the roll of those who have died in the line of duty, defending Israel, has grown by 60 in the past year, to 23,544. But the statistics do not convey the full story. In a small nation, where everyone has known friends or family who were lost, every statistic was personal, they were all felt by someone. The reminders are everywhere. As in the poem by the late Yehuda Amichai,
Mr. Beringer, whose son
fell at the Canal that strangers dug
so that ships could cross the desert,
crosses my path at Jaffa Gate. 
He has grown very thin, has lost
the weight of his son.
That's why he floats so lightly in the alleys
and gets caught in my heart like little twigs
that drift away.
Tomorrow night, will commence Independence Day - Yom HaAtzmaut in Israel, when Israelis and Jews around the world will celebrate Israel's modern day rebirth. It is a celebration with inflatable hammers and silly string. But before there can be an Independence Day in Israel, there must always be a Memorial Day.  In Israel, there cannot be one without the other.

[1] From: "Seven Laments for the War-Dead" by Yehuda Amichai, in: The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, ed. and trans. by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell (New York, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1986).

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