27th April 2020
Since we are all engulfed with the ramifications of this ghastly virus, I thought to begin with a quote from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who quoted Cicero’s De Legibus, he responded that since dodging death from the virus, he has doubled his efforts to care for the people of the UK “Salus populi suprema lex esto” (Latin: “The health of the people should be the supreme law” That’s what happens when one’s leader is an Oxford Literae Humaniores graduate. My thanks to my son Gideon for the quote which he gave me despite being a Cambridge man himself!
Tonight marks the beginning of the most solemn day in the Israeli calendar, just after dusk the first eerie wail will call the entire country to attention for one minute’s silence to honour the fallen of Israel’s wars, to honour those who died so that we could be live in security. Tonight Remembrance Day – Yom HaZikaron begins with the traditional service at the Kotel, the Western Wall, but without the attendance of the families of the fallen. Tomorrow at 11:00 the second siren will sound for 2 full minutes, to remember the fallen of Israel, Jews, Christians, Druze and Bedouin. This year, the Minister of Defence, Naftali Bennet, decided that it was too dangerous for the families to visit the graves of their loved ones because they cannot all go together because the graves are so close together that the danger of contagion for elderly parents became just too great. The families went individually during the past week and tomorrow brothers in arms and families alike will hold Zoom memorials and light a candle at home.
They say that out of every tragedy comes a new beginning and out of this plague came a new understanding, on both sides, between the Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox) and the soldiers who went to protect them against the new enemy, the virus, to ensure they stayed home but also to bring them food, medicines and other essentials. The leading Rabbis of both the Ashkenaz and Sephardi communities have initiated a virtual candle lighting and reading of Tehilim (psalms) among the Haredi community for each of the nearly 24,000 young lives lost since before the founding of the State of Israel. One of the initiators, former Minister of Education, Rabbi Shai Piron, said “In the past few weeks we have seen soldiers in the streets of Haredi communities such as Bnei Brak and Modi’in Illit because of the coronavirus emergency. The wall that separated the two worlds is falling, it is the time to understand that we are one nation and we must all do something to bridge the gap, and that means from both sides of the religious divide. It is important to show that Yom Hazikaron is not a secular day, it is a day for all those who fell and we should celebrate it together, while respecting the specifics of each community”. https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/haredim-to-light-virtual-candle-for-soldiers-in-one-people-project-625987
You too can light a virtual memorial candle if you go to http://ner.izkor.mod.gov.il/#/view1 (in Hebrew) Nearly 500,000 candles have already been lit.
The parades and speeches, the flag bearing and the changing of the guard will take place, but without the usual cheering audience, we will all watch from our homes. The incredible switch from mourning to celebration as dusk falls and Independence Day begins will take place on Mount Herzl as always, the mourning for those who gave their lives for this country to the dancing, music, singing and joy of Independence Day – Yom HaAtzma’ut – to celebrate the 72nd birthday of the incredible, modern, innovative and beautiful country that they made possible. The famous singers will sing, the dancers will dance and the flags will wave, but all prerecorded. Even President Rivlin has recorded a greeting on a hologram which brings him into your very own home so that you can take a selfie with him!! The Link to the president’s greeting: http://tetavi.8thwall.app/israel72 and Simulation clip, for your use (courtesy)https://youtu.be/ZCSwoo44Ukc
This year 16 exceptional people will light the torches, the beacons, for the 72nd Independence Day. Many represent the caregivers during this time of medical intensity, all are Israeli. They come from every stream of Israeli society. https://www.theicenter.org/resource/people-who-inspire-times-corona
The closure and isolation which meant that so many had a very lonely Passover Seders is now affecting the Israeli Moslems during Ramadan. Actually it is affecting Moslems worldwide, even the Kaba’a is empty at a time when millions normally make Haj, instead of the throngs there are two or three locals. Synagogues, Churches and Mosques are empty of congregants, but many are finding a new way to pray, a private conversation with God.
The lone prayer can sometimes bring a special togetherness – as happened in Jerusalem last week when clergymen of all the major religions met to pray for the health and peace of the world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXthpOBqBfs
One of my favourite articles which has become a regular each year in the Jerusalem Post is Barbara Sofer’s “72+1 new reasons I love Israel” Each year she manages with ease to give the same number of reasons as Israel’s age plus one for luck https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/independence-day-721-new-reasons-i-love-israel-625573
I have at least two additions to Barbara Sofers 72+1. This year, the flags and bunting on Road Number One, the main highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, are not just Israeli flags; this year they alternate between the Israeli flag, Magen David Adom – The Red Star of David on its pure white background and the symbol of the Israeli Police. A well-deserved tribute to the people who have risked their lives to serve us.
My second reason is that, as a nation, we care, we really care. For instance, when we realised a dear friend was alone in his apartment, has no food in the house, doesn’t know how to cook and walks with difficulty, Zvi called the Municipality and now he not only receives meals delivered to his doorstep every day by volunteers, they call him each day to see how he is, if he needs anything. Volunteers in each neighbourhood do the same, nobody should go hungry or suffer alone. On Holocaust Remembrance Day the police decided that each and every Holocaust Survivor would have a policeman standing beside their door during the siren and would receive a flower, so that they know that they are not alone.
On a different subject, we almost have a government – well we are closer to forming a government than we have managed for the last few years. The insults are still flying and the accusations too but we are getting there. Sadly many have turned against Benny Gantz, after he agreed to join a government led, albeit temporarily, by Benjamin Netanyahu since one of his election promises was that he would never sit in government with a Prime Minister under the cloud of indictment. I saw it as Gantz being the only adult in the room but his former allies and many of his voters are very disappointed. Let’s face it, it isn’t ideal, I’m not sure anyone wins and many lose, but we desperately need a working government right now and urgently. The country’s fiscal situation is tenuous our need to come to a clear policy on how to restart the economy and the ability to legislate is beyond overdue. We can continue moaning or just get on with it.
Today’s date in the Gregorian Calendar is the 27th of April, but we started counting well before that. The Hebrew month of Iyar, of which its first full day is today was the very first month of the very first calendar, the Lunar Calendar, when we left Egypt. The Torah reading which began the month teaches us to love our neighbour and to show kindness to all. Fascinating.
The usual flurry of parties, barbeques in the parks, in fact barbeques on every available open space, won’t happen this year, a different kind of celebration. Our veranda is ablaze with colour and redolent with the blossom on the little orange tree and the sound of the flags and bunting flap, flap, flapping in the breeze reassure me that although we celebrate at home, celebrate we will. Although I was a tiny girl, a toddler, when the State of Israel was declared, I seem to remember my parent’s tears of joy, their pride in the fact that there was a Jewish homeland. I grew up in a Zionist home – my parents love of Israel brought them here for their first visit in 1953, when Daddy took movie of Mummy dancing with the children in the WIZO Jerusalem Baby Home. When I think of the changes in the landscapes in those 16 mm flickering images and the bustling, thriving, beautiful country I live in today, I burst with pride at the achievements against all odds, the achievements of this tiny sliver of land. Israel at 72 is more beautiful than she has ever been before.
Lt Col. Shai Abramson singing the Prayer for the State of Israel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q5–mNIZhU&t=70s with subtitles although I admit that I love the video where one sees him recording, even if you don’t understand. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q5–mNIZhU
As we mourn those who died defending us and those ordinary people who died at the hands of our enemies only one song seems appropriate, Mark Knopfler’s Brothers in Arms https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-g9zVf_qwE
Finally, I ask you to stand and sing with me of the hope that is the State of Israel. Hatikvah from Mount Herzl in the days when we could celebrate together – with English subtitles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMwSlp7I7IQ
Tonight at precisely 20:00 Israel will stand on our balconies, verandahs and windows as the siren covers us with a blanket of awareness. This year we are asked to wave our flags rather than stand to attention, as a symbol of solidarity with the families of the fallen.
We have so much to be proud of, so much to bring us together that it is time to put aside our differences and celebrate a beautiful 72 year old woman who nurtures us all, whoever and whatever we may be.
With love from Jerusalem, our capital city and the heart of our world