11th May, 2016
יום הזכרון 5776
Remembrance Day for soldiers who died fighting so we could be free and for those who fell to terror.
Only two nights ago we celebrated a truly special wedding. The groom, my nephew Ofer, stood under the chuppa with his father Steve and his brothers Sagi and Yair watching with deep emotion as his beautiful bride Rifka Talia walked up the aisle on her mother and Shulis arms. It was a wonderful night of pure joy for Steven and Shuli to see their Ofer married. The celebration was absolute, the evening perfect.
Just one night later, last night, the entire country stood in silence in the knowledge that Ofer, Sagi and Yair all lost friends in war and Shuli, Steve, Zvi and I all knew parents who lost sons and daughters – indeed Steve and Zvi also lost friends, this war to prove that Jews also deserve their own country is seemingly never ending. Remembrance Day in Israel is not a shopping opportunity or even a visit to the Senotaph, it is all encompassing.
Let me take you to the ceremony we attended on Mount Herzl, in the Military Cemetery. I made notes when we got home so that I would not forget one moment, one event.
Breeze, pines, Jerusalem, scouts, silence waiting, siren rising filling the hearts, massua lit by beautiful young widow, names and lights around water.
Shelley Silver and friends reading poems and singing beautiful songs.
The ceremony was given by Modiin Troupe of the Israeli Scouts, in honour of those from their troupe who fell in war since the founding of the nation. Each troupe had a ceremony all over the country; there was a ceremony in the Knesset; every municipality held a ceremony and today all schools will do so too. The main ceremony, or Tekes, was held at the Western Wall, the Kotel, for the bereaved families. The President takes part and of course the Prime Minister who is himself a bereaved brother, his brother Yonni died as a hero in Entebbe.
We sat under the pines of Mount Herzl, young scouts standing to attention on the natural platform waiting for the siren which would express our deep and abiding heartache at the loss of friends, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters and a life that was cut short by fury so great that it kills. We waited, the silence of Jerusalem complete. The breeze ruffled the trees and then the deep, throaty rise of the siren began reaching a wailing crescendo of tears. As the siren tapered off we couldn’t speak, it held us in a grip of grief.
The scout leader asked one of the widows to step forward to light the beacon, the flame of remembrance. She was very young, very beautiful and as she walked forward, her head held high, it hit home yet again, another widow, another life in tatters.
The ceremony continued with beautiful songs, written of hope and sadness, poems by great Israeli poets, our lovely Shelley read so beautifully with true pathos; then they began to read the names of the fallen, the screen showing their faces……… 20 years old, 19, 27, 21, 47, 18…… their age irrelevant. As they read the names of the 34 members of Modiin Troupe, scouts lit a remembrance flame around the shallow pool representing the sea, the flames reflected in the water. It was a magnificent tribute to those who died so we could be free.
Today there will be more ceremonies, families will go to the military cemeteries to light a Yahzeit candle and cry. At 11:00 precisely the country will come to a halt. Cars will stop on the highway, buses will stand by the roadside letting the passengers stand beside them; schools will stand in silence, the children dressed in white as they learn of the history of our little country; religious schools will stand in silence and read Tehilim – Psalms.
This evening it all changes. At the huge ceremony on Mount Herzl, as the guard is changed and the flags handed over to a new Troupe of soldiers, the mood does 180 degree turn and the celebrations begin. Only in Israel can you go from deep grief to sheer joy in a split second! From beacons to barbecues!
The parties begin, the ozone layer thins as barbecues are lit all over the country and Israel will celebrate being an exquisitely beautiful 68 year old lady. Of course we have the right to exist – anyone who claims otherwise needs to come here and see our achievements – indeed to share in our achievements, we are not only innovative we are generous!
Tonight we will go to a huge party, laugh with friends, dance and enjoy a glass of wine and great food…………. Tomorrow we join other friends for another party and our joy at being Israeli will be complete. It isn’t that we forget the fallen, we honour them by celebrating the very country they died defending.
There are so many songs I could give you but one always stands out.Mark Knopfler, the lead singer of Dire Straits, wrote this song for the IDF and no matter how many times I hear and watch, it reaches into my heart. Brother in Arms https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTXiBGLloV4
Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu – Peace will come to us and to everyone. Salaam Shalom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLDKtUeYCwc
Finally, of course, Hatikva, the Hope. The Hope for peace, for life, for joy…………… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igS2T6FXnks
|כֹּל עוֹד בַּלֵּבָב פְּנִימָה||Kol ‘od balevav penimah||As long as in the heart, within,|
|נֶפֶשׁ יְהוּדִי הוֹמִיָּה||Nefesh yehudi homiyah,||A Jewish soul still yearns,|
|וּלְפַאֲתֵי מִזְרָח, קָדִימָה,||Ul(e)fa’atei mizrach kadimah,||And onward, towards the ends of the east,|
|עַיִן לְצִיּוֹן צוֹפִיָּה,||‘Ayin letziyon tzofiyah;||an eye still gazes toward Zion;|
|עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ,||‘Od lo avdah tikvateinu,||Our hope is not yet lost,|
|הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם||Hatikvah bat sh(e)not ’alpayim,||The hope two thousand years old,|
|לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ,||Lihyot ‘am chofshi b(e)’artzeinu,||To be a free nation in our land,|
|אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם.||’Eretz-Tziyon viy(e)rushalayim.||The land of Zion and Jerusalem.|
|May G-d bless you, Israel and all peace loving people in this world