Yom Ha Zikaron – Remembrance Day
7th May, 2019
Remembrance Day for the fallen, soldiers and civilians, victims of terror
We stood on our veranda, the cool air whipping the blue and white flag to attention, both of us waiting, our hearts beating loudly in the silence of the streets, waiting for 20:00 and the siren that hails the beginning of Remembrance Day. No matter how many times I hear it, the shock runs throughout my body, the tears flow without warning. Cars stop although few were out and about. As Michael Dickson wrote
Cafés are shut.
There are ceremonies in every town.
People visit gravesites.
Tell stories of those lost.
And everyone stops.
Wherever you are.
That’s how Israelis remember those who fell to protect them and those murdered by terrorists.
Perhaps this year it is all the more poignant after a week which began with 4 more names to add to the list of those killed and 700 rockets on civilians in the South and as far from Gaza as Ashkelon. 23,740 lives were lost since before the founding of the State, for no better reason than they were Israelis. Israelis. Jews, Christians, Druze, Bedouin, Circassian all fighting an enemy that will not let us live in peace.
Zvi went to the plant nursery in the Botanical Gardens where they clear a large area for seating and about 250 invitees sing appropriate songs, not military songs but songs yearning for peace or remembering those lost. He will sing too.
The ceremony for the fallen takes place at the Kotel, the Western Wall, whose attendees were all the parents, brothers, sisters and children of the fallen. I scanned their faces and felt their pain. “The door slammed silently behind them” said President Reuven Rivlin, describing the sense of abandonment for those left behind.
Tonight the service is at the Western Wall, tomorrow the bereaved of too many wars and terror attacks will visit their graves in cemeteries throughout the country but especially at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl, their pain slightly eased by the beauty of their surroundings. Soldiers and ex-soldiers visit the graves of their mates, gathering to tell stories of their time together. At precisely 11:00 there will be a longer siren throughout the country, as if it were echoing the weeping of the families.
Tomorrow evening the closing ceremony will be held on Mount Herzl with great dignity and respect. As if by magic, as dusk falls, the mood changes as if by magic from deep mourning to great exhilaration and the Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) celebrations begin. The transition is almost seamless. Traditionally the Speaker of the Knesset holds forth, although last year the PM also spoke.The military parade changes step from sombre to celebratory and the night becomes a huge musical event with singers, dancers, fireworks and most importantly the lighting of beacons. The torch lighters are chosen for their selfless and determined work to better Israeli society. Diaspora Jewry will be represented by Pittsburgh Jewish Leader Jeffrey Finkelstein.
First we will to our friend Hannah’s home to watch the Mount Herzl ceremony on TV with our buddies from the choir HaKol Yachassi, before heading off to Ramat HaSharon to the much bigger party at our friends the Lotan’s which will undoubtedly continue to the early hours. The next day we go to more friends for that oh so Israeli “mangal” or barbeque at the Schreibers, my contribution is a huge jar of home-made pickles! I will head home afterwards and Zvi, of course, is off to other parties. I would love to go but we have 18 people for Friday night dinner and since I don’t know them (they are a group of business people from the USA who Zvi invited to see a real Shabbat Dinner and hear his amazing kiddush) I have to create a good impression. We will begin with very Israeli Hors d’Ouevres buffet, celeriac soup, individual broccoli and sweet potato muffins, the inevitable poached teriyaki salmon with wonderful Israeli baby new potatoes, roasted cauliflower ending with Raya’s 7 minute chocolate cake with vanilla ice-cream. To complete the effect I have been working on our verandah for weeks to make it even more beautiful than usual – Stanley Roth would be proud of the results!!
Zvi has invited an impressive group of people to ensure they leave informed – Prof. Gabby Barkay, Prof. Shimon Shitreet and Moshe Lev-Ran who lives in a moshav on the Gaza border and is the Director of a factory in the Barkan Industrial Estate, next to Ariel, which employs and cares for 50% Palestinian workers. Such is the amazing and beautiful dichotomy of Israel – you live in a place where they launch rockets to kill you yet have a big heart and employ Palestinians to give them a better life.
The music this week is eclectic, even more than usual! We begin with “I have no other country” “Ayn li Eretz Aheret” sung by Ninette Tayib https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uuk7c1VIaaA
Lalechet Shevi Acharyich became my song when I learned it in Ulpan. It’s undoubtedly my song until today. A love song to Israel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQLU1a-rnGA
Hatikva, The Hope. The National Anthem of Israel which was written before the emergence of the State, was sung in the camps of Europe, a prayer a hope for a homeland. Well, we may still be fighting our war of Independence, even of recognition, but we are here to stay and the Hope, the Dream became a reality. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpRmJZ8aSZ0
The change from mourning to joy is intentional. We are not a people who buries itself in the past, while never forgetting it, we are a people that hopes, that builds; we are a people that takes the meaning of Tikkun Olam very seriously. It isn’t just being nice to others, it is leaving this world a better place than you found it. We have done it through medical innovation and research; technological breakthroughs; reaching the moon; sending medical and physical aid to places of natural disaster; teaching third world countries the miracles of modern agriculture and civil engineering; bringing Jews in danger home and building a truly magnificent country. We may have started with those who escaped the ashes of the Holocaust but we have built a strong, proud people whose culinary expertise has taken over the world!!!
With all our love from Jerusalem, Capital City of Israel and the Jewish people. Chag Atzmaut Sameach!!!!
Facebook Sheila Silver Raviv
Involvement http://www.impact-se.org/ The Yuri Shtern Holistic Center https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=kMhjARej5-o