Last week, Israel stood and remembered those who fell. When the sirens sounded at 8 p.m. the night before (for one minute) and at 11 a.m (for two minutes) the nation stopped what it was doing and was grateful. Almost 23 thousand soldiers gave their lives so that Israel could be the only free country in a region awash with tyranny.
It’s called Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance), and I’ve been through 15 of those. When the sirens wail it’s as if you can, for just a moment, touch those who paid the price for Israel’s freedom, and feel the anguish of those who laid to rest their sons and daughters.
I cannot think of too many things more horrifying than for a father to bury his son.
Why am I writing about this now?
I’m not sure.
It wasn’t a good week.
But, I was reminded of my failure when Barry Rubin ended his opinion piece yesterday with these words:
In all of this and throughout the nation on this day, there was not a word of hatred, of reviling any enemy. No smugness of triumph, no desire for conquest; no thirst for revenge or punishment. Thus behaves the world’s most slandered nation.
A nation like this is truly a nation worth dying for.
By Barry Rubin, 04/29/2012 | JPost.com
There was not a word of hatred, of reviling any enemy. No smugness of triumph, no desire for conquest; no thirst for revenge or punishment. Thus behaves the world’s most slandered nation.
As we set out down Tel Aviv’s Ibn Gvirol Street to the Herzliya Gymnasia high school, all the stores were closing. The police cordoned off the street to vehicles and, as on Yom Kippur, hundreds of people strolled down the middle of the pavement. Past the city hall, where a concert was starting up, we passed by the small memorial of restless stones that marks the place where prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.
That night in November 1995, I’d come home from the peace rally that had turned into a mass of mourners when the news spread that Rabin had been murdered a few meters away. I walked, crying, into the small room, then a family room and now our office, where I’m writing this. Our daughter sat on my wife’s lap.
Now our daughter is 17 years old, playing a leading role in her school’s Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration program. In the school’s courtyard, plastic chairs have been set down tightly, arm to arm, for about 1,000 people.
All of them are full. The front two rows are reserved for the school’s graduates who now are in the army and the parents of those former students who have fallen.
At precisely 8 p.m., with an un- Israeli sense of discipline, everyone rose at the same moment as the sirens went off. Those are the same sirens as the ones I heard signaling incoming Iraqi missiles almost a quarter-century earlier. A flag is slowly lowered to half-mast. The father of one slain soldier-graduate says Kaddish; a cantor chants the “El Maleh Rahamim” prayer, modified for the occasion but rooted in the prayer for those martyred a thousand years ago in Europe by the pogroms accompanying the Crusades.
These are the parts of the program repeated every year. It is possible that such things would grow stale and routine. But they don’t.
They are simply – literally – too close to home; too fresh in the mind and raw in the emotions. For all of these students will have to serve, too. And every citizen – not just every soldier – is a potential target.