Monday, May 5, 2014

Yom HaZikaron, Mishpacha Echad

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Last night when the 8pm sirens began the 24 hours of Yom HaZikaron, our memorial day for remembering our soldiers who gave their lives for this country, I walked down the street seeking a neighborhood tekes (ceremony) and so that I could be outside when the sirens sounded.

In Israel when the sirens go off on Yom HaZikaron, (at 8pm for one minute, then again the next morning at 11am for two minutes) everything comes to a halt. People go out to the street, pedestrians halt, all cars and vehicles stop, even on highways, including buses, and everyone stands for the one minute or the two minutes of the siren. Drivers and passengers get out of their cars and stand beside their vehicles as we remember the fallen. It is a profoundly moving experience.

As the 8pm time approached, I saw many people gathering in the kikar (traffic circle) ahead, and others gathering in the circle around the kikar itself, all of us joining one another in this public expression of sadness and heartfelt mourning. I had never seen this gathering at the kikar, and it was very much an expression of all of us together and especially meaningful.

It was what happened next however that made this one of the most moving of Yom HaZikaron evenings. I found myself a moment later, at the One Family Fund building, where a tekes was beginning. One Family Fund is an organization that brings together all the resources of people, services and monies to support families of victims of terror.  It is dedicated to a lifetime of assistance if needed to those who have suffered such a loss, and there are so many, like the soldiers, who have given their lives for this country.

This night, on Yom HaZikaron, when we remember the soldiers, we also remembered another kind of soldier - those who died, not in uniform, but defenders of our Land just the same.  One by one on the screen, names and faces of those so familiar to us brought us close. Soldiers lost in battle and those lost in terror attacks were remembered together. Family members, sons, daughters, brothers or sisters, stood at the microphone and gave moving and uplifting testimony to their loved ones and to their struggles to move ahead and regain their own lives. It was indescribable...heartbreaking and healing at the same time.

The audience was filled with family members, friends, young soldiers, and as we all know, each of us is a friend and has a personal connection to each one who has died. Not just in thought or spirit, but truly, because we are really a family, it IS someone that we know, or the friend of someone we know. There is always a personal connection. No one is untouched, we are part of one another, we are, Am Yisrael, One Family, Mishpacha Echad.

It was then I realized, like I do every year, that we cannot - not only cannot, we don't have the right, to celebrate the happiness of Yom HaAtzmaut, without sharing with one another, the pain of Yom HaZikaron.

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