That’s the mantra that repeated itself in my head as we stood in silence for the siren, marking the start of Israel Memorial Day this evening. Our youth put together a moving show of conviction and dedication, memories and sorrow, of local heroes who fell in battle or terror.
The entire country stood still for a long moment, heads bowed, remembering loved ones and strangers, all of us brought together by an eerie sound reminding us of our duty and our pain. It is this way that we choose to preface a day of celebration for Israel’s independence, it is together that we stand in silence and in song, gathering and joining to mourn and remember.
On our Memorial Day, the names of the fallen are being read out loud, all of them, one by one, in an ongoing ceremony at the Knesset in Jerusalem. Soldiers stand at attention all night, at sites such as the Kotel, our Western Wall, remnant of the Temple. Cemeteries across the country are filled with families and strangers alike, remembering, telling stories, paying respect to those who gave their lives so we could be here today, a free people in our land. One people stand together on this day.
I’ve heard that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. From last week’s Holocaust Memorial Day, with the few survivors still reminding us of history; to tonight’s day-long tribute to our soldiers and terror victims – we Jews know how to remember. We have fast days throughout the year, to remember a 2000-year-old Temple. Our Bible is one of man’s oldest guidebooks for heritage, religion, beliefs. Our people have a long memory, and we use it to look to the future.
So it felt right to stand among our youth, to be moved along with them in song and poetry, to stand in silence together for the siren, Israeli flags flying proudly in the (cold) night wind.
And I prayed that God would protect them all, look over them as a worried parent who knows He must let them go – put on a military uniform, take up arms to protect our borders, step up and be the next generation responsible for our future. And return them safely home, all of them. The kids. Our kids.
May He bring comfort and wisdom to those who suffer, and accompany us into the celebrations of our 71st Independence Day tomorrow night. What a transition — see you there.