3rd May 2022
ב באייר תשפ”ב
Today we mourn those who died fighting to create and hold this little oasis of Jewish life, from before the forming of the nascent State until today. Thousands of lives snuffed out by hatred. In less than half an hour the first siren will sound across the country to herald a day of mourning. We all know however that it is not just a day of mourning because, for the families, every day is a day of mourning for the 24,068 soldiers who died in Israel’s constant battle for independence. Since this day last year, another 56 soldiers have joined the ranks of those lost.
It never fails to amaze me that nobody questions the existence, or right to exist of India, ratified just months before us, but the world has turned against this tiny, innovative, giving country.
Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance for those lost in War and through Terror attacks. Yom Hazikaron, a Day of Mourning where the face and story of each soldier lost is shown for 24 hours on the Knesset website and television. If you want to light a candle in memory of a fallen soldier go to www.izkor.gov.il
The central ceremony is held at the Western Wall, the Kotel but each military cemetery has its own, and the closing ceremony is held at Mount Herzl. Sad songs are played all day, shops and restaurants, places of entertainment are closed and of course the sirens, one at 20:00 tonight and one tomorrow at 11:00. We stand to attention to honour those who made our lives possible.
IDF Chief Cantor Shai Abramson will sing Yizkor, the lament for the dead, at the ceremonies and here he sings Unetanneh Tokef a prayer sung on Yom Kippur and on this day of mourning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyBToUaon2w
I left you to stand out on our veranda, to hear the keening sound of the siren, expressing our grief at the young lives snuffed out. I called my friend Jill, all the way in Leeds, UK, because she feels the pain that we feel and needs to hear the siren as we do. Most cars and buses stopped before the siren, to give time for drivers and passengers alike to alight and stand to attention beside the bus, most of our neighbours stood out on their verandas to hear the siren clearly – there are few who have not lost friends, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters or a family member in unwanted wars or terror attacks. As I said, we are still fighting our war of independence, our war for recognition.
Tomorrow, most families will go to the graves of their loved ones. Some take flowers to place on their freshly washed gravestones. The most tragic is to see a child hugging a gravestone, all that remains of their contact with their father. The strange thing is that with all this tragedy there is a sense of purpose to living here. We are horrified by each death, but at least we are fighting for our own land, our own right to exist and not in a far distant land in someone else’s war. Here we fight for our home and the right to live in it.
As you well know, my favourite Israeli song of all time, the song that expresses everything about living here. It was written by Naomi Shemer, the same poet who wrote Yerushalyim Shel Zahav, Jerusalem of Gold. This is the song that expresses everything that I feel about living here in this the Promised Land. Al Kol Eleh – Above All This – or The Honey and the Sting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOhhIZnLcRU It has both subtitles and transliteration so you can join in.
High on a hill in Jerusalem, in front of the grave of Theodore Herzl, as the Remembrance Day draws to a close, the deep sadness, the grieving, the mourning, the flags are handed over to the new guard, the speeches are thankfully over and then, suddenly the mood changes and we recognise the fact that as in all wars, we lost loved ones but we are still here! Israel is now a thriving, noisy, busy, economically sound, scientifically brilliant, medically innovative and is truly the Start Up Nation of 9,500,00 citizens of diverse race, faith, religion and traditions! Yes we really do have what to cheer about and cheer we do!!
Dancers, singers, acrobats and fun as we change our mood in an instant and the Yom haAtzmaut – Independence Day – celebrations begin! A truly spectacular evening of entertainment and jubilation! I remember that before Covid put a damper on all and any celebrations I took my amazing grand-daughter Talia to the Ceremony on Mount Herzl. For her, she was 13 at the time, the change from mourning to celebration really reached her soul. She waved her flag, wore her flashing Israeli flag headdress, cheered with the crowd as each new wonder was revealed and oooohed and aaahed at the multi-coloured drones which formed patterns in the night sky, including Star of David, Menorah, etc etc. Yes folks, we really know how to celebrate!
Parties abound and some say that instead of calling it Independence Day we should call it “The Day of the Mangal” – a Mangal is a Barbecue in Turkish! Not a square metre of park is left without the inevitable portable barbecues! The aroma of succulent steaks, kebabs and lamb chops alongside the highly seasoned chicken wings wafts over the entire country. Each family comes armed with huge cold-boxes filled with salads of every conceivable variety and only the early comers manage to grab a picnic table to sit at, others either bring their own table or a blanket and sit on the ground. It is a day of joy, of family, of celebration never forgetting the cost in human life.
So what about the achievements for this incredibly young country, the reborn Israel. How do I love her? Let me count the ways
Israel is 1st place in the world in planting new trees every year.
2nd place in the world in the ranking of space sciences.
1st place in the development of medical patents.
Israel is a member of the exclusive World Space Club, of which only 9 countries are members.
The Israeli Air Force is considered one of the best in the world, and holds a number of world records in the field of air combat.
The Israeli Naval Commando (Squadron 13) is ranked as one of the ten best units in the world.
The Merkava Mark 4 tank made in Israel is considered one of the best tanks in the world.
The most protected combat bulldozer in the world is the D9 of the IDF Combat Engineering Corps (and even holds the Guinness record).
Israel is a world leader in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles/drones (UAVs), and in 2013 it already won the title – the largest UAV exporter in the world, and in general Israel is ranked as the world’s leading arms exporter in terms of the size of its population.
Israel is the largest exporter of polished diamonds in the world. The Israeli Diamond Exchange is the largest and most important rough diamond trading center in the world, with over 60 percent of its global turnover.
Israel is one of the largest citrus exporters in the world.
In Israel there are12 Nobel Prize winners, which is an amazing figure in relation to the size of population in the country.
Ben-Gurion Airport is considered one of the most secure airports in the world, to which global companies come every year to learn about innovative security methods.
Israel is considered one of the leading high-tech centers in the world.
Israel is one of the most advanced countries in the world in the field of water desalination.
Israel holds the world record of cotton crop per hectare (245 kg !!!) The world average is only 70 kilos.
The yield of milk to a cow in Israel – the highest in the world!
The Israeli cow is the world champion in milk production, the average milk production of each Israeli cow is 11,653 liters compared to 8,000 liters per European cow)
The number of scientific articles per capita written by Israelis is among the highest in the world. Also, Israel is in third place in the world (along with Switzerland) in relation to the registered patents per capita.
The average life expectancy in the State of Israel is in sixth place in the world. (Men – 80.6 years and women 84.3 years)
Infant mortality in Israel is among the lowest in the world.
Israel is ranked 19th out of 195 countries listed in the Human Development Index.
Eighth in the world in the global power index.
In fourth place in the ranking of the most educated countries in the world.
Ninth in the World Health Index (out of 163 countries)
Ranked 11th out of 158 in the Global Happiness Index.
In third place (out of 144 countries) in the ranking of the most innovative countries in the world.
My country is only young. She is only 74 years old.
I am proud to be Israeli
And so much more! Am proud of all our volunteers who rush to help countries around the world after natural disasters including the USA, Canada and Turkey; I am proud of Mashav, the government division that sends agricultural, medical and civic aid to third world countries and bring their people in all those professions to Israel to study in our universities to take their knowledge home; I am proud of the incredible work done to create tolerant societies in the midst of intolerance; I am proud that even as they call for our destruction we still provide Gaza with staple foodstuffs, electricity and gas; I am proud that one can see Moslems kneeling down to pray in the middle of the main road and nobody bats an eyelid; gosh I could go on and on.
I pray that the words of Menachem Begin (yes it was he not Anwar Sadat) when Anwar Sadat came to Israel “No more war, no more bloodshed“
When Naomi Shemer heard the Beatles sing “Let it Be” She decided to write “Lu Yehi” which carried the same sentiment, a sentiment of hope and prayer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDyHGjawbL4
How to end this missive of sorrow and celebration? Surely with that so aptly named anthem of the entire Jewish people and Israel in particular. Hatikva, the Hope. https://youtu.be/GQCu9kl68Tg
It’s time to celebrate our differences, to accept each other as we are not as we expect.
With love from our veranda, where I watched the respect shown to those who keep us safe as I looked out over Jerusalem from the very spot that Theodore Herzl planted a tree. Indeed yesterday was Herzl’s birthday. Can you imagine what he would have to say about his dream? It was not only a dream it came to fruition in a thriving, bustling country that even Herzl could not have imagined. Altneuland is a reality.
Chag Atzma’ut Sameach