The view from my veranda

Independence Day in Jerusalem

Mon, 9 May 2011
5th of Iyyar, 5771 –
Yom HaZikaron – Israel at 63 – 20th day of the Omer

The only sound one could sense over the mournful wailing of the siren was the fluttering of the flag high on its flagpole on our veranda with the view over Jerusalem.
Standing to attention together with the entire nation Billy and I, heads bowed, sensed the weight of Israel’s bereavement, the grief of so many young lives lost to a struggle we did not invite nor do we want with neighbours who wish only for our demise.

Remembrance Day in Israel has a solemnity and unity rarely seen. It is not a few who honour our fallen around a monument or cemetery, it is a nation of stopped buses and cars – no restaurants or places of entertainment. Zvi and Ruth, Billy’s wife from Mexico, were in the market and experienced the eerie sensation of a world standing still in that crowded place that only seconds before and after were bustling hives of humanity. In a few hours the face of grief will drop from our public face and the joy of Independence will take its place, almost like theatrical masks which change from tragedy to comedy. To hear and see Israel go to,com_adsmanager/page,display/tid,145780/catid,99/Itemid,361 and of course each year I make you cry with pride

Ruth and Billy will go to the National Ceremony on Mount Herzl with Rosa and Bernardo since Zvi is in the 30 days of mourning for his late Mother. The lighting of the beacons is both beautiful and deeply symbolic. The lighters come from all walks of life and are those who changed our society for the better. Holocaust survivor Michael Goldman Gilad, who still bears the Auschwitz number 161135 on his arm; Physicist and former Refusenik Zeev Dashevsky ; MK Matityahu Drobeles, who headed the Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency ; Orit Dror of Kibbutz Lavi lost her 15-year-old son Netzer and donated his organs thus saving other lives; Sa’ar Shapira, a volunteer firefighter will be joined in the ceremony by Arij Rahab, the first female Druse officer in the Prisons Service. Col. (res.) Omer Bar-Lev, who was a General Staff commander in the IDF, today chairs Aharei (After Me), an organization dedicated to persuading youth from peripheral communities to join the army; Hosha Friedman Ben- Shalom, a colonel in the reserves who does 165 days a year of reserve duty and heads the pre-military training school Beit Israel, which has a mixed religious-and-secular student body; Zahava Dankner, who engages in numerous volunteer activities particularly in beleaguered Southern Israel; Gadi Bashari, founder of the Sweet Heart organization, which assists soldiers, the disabled, and new immigrants of every background; Yobi Teshuma, who immigrated from Ethiopia in 1984 and in 2005 founded Friends in Nature, an organization committed to helping Ethiopian immigrants; and American immigrant Barbara Goldstein, the deputy director of the Hadassah Office in Israel, who has been a fervent Zionist all her life and Moishe Holzberg, whose parents Gavriel and Rivka were killed in Mumbai Habad together with his grandfather Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg.

There the transformation from tragedy to comedy is most noticeable as the music changes and soldiers parade with their company flags to change the guard after which the young dancers and musicians of Israel will take on their role and Israel celebrates with music, fun, fireworks and pride. We move seamlessly into a nation of barbeques and parties determinedly moving forward while always holding our grief in its special and private place.

For Zvi last week passed in a haze of hundreds of visitors to his parents tiny apartment to pay their respects to Kalman and Alla Raviv, two phenomenal people, true representatives of a selfless generation of nation builders; students, pupils and fellow teachers; friends and admirers from a different way of life when people thought only of the common good and not of their own.

Zvi related incredible stories of their life and heard new ones. He found his parents marriage certificate from the British Mandate and his own birth certificate – both of which proclaimed both he and his parents as Palestinians; he found his Mothers baccalaureate certificate from the Lodz Gymnasia and the breast-feeding report of the local nurse for his Mother. Incredible memories as Former PM Ehud Olmert and Mayor Nir Barkat came to comfort Zvi. Former Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik came and told wonderful tales of the days when she and Alla were political rivals and friends learned incredible new stories that made my husband the man he is. The seven days of mourning are a time of story telling and prayer; of respect and even humour; of open grieving. As the Shiva came to an end we went to the cemetery to part from Alla as she was finally reunited with her Kalman laying side by side in a beautiful tree lined section for those rare people named “Yakirey Yerushalyim” literally those dear to Jerusalem – exceptional people. On Kalmans gravestone Zvi wrote the names of his family that perished in the Holocaust and have no graves and that is what he will do for his Mother – two lonely people who found each other and loved each other as only those who have lost everything can know to love. May their souls rest in peace – together again.

As we lead toward our joyful Independence Day don’t forget those who gave their lives to make it possible. Cherish every second of independence for it is under constant threat.

Chag Atzma’ut Sameach – Happy Independence Day
With love from Jerusalem – festooned with blue and white flags