Yom HaZikaron: The Sacred Privilege of Awareness
By Ariella Bracha Waldinger
I never knew anything about Yom HaZikaron when I was living in America. The 4th of Iyar had no relevance to my life. I lived by the American calendar not the Jewish calendar. But thank G-d, since coming home to our nation’s divinely ordained biblical inheritance, my mind knows, my heart knows and my soul knows the date and if I ever forget, the sirens that pierce the airwaves (one at 8PM and one at 11AM) remind me of the sacred privilege of Yom HaZikaron awareness.
Yom HaZikaron is a special day set aside as a time of remembering the fallen soldiers of Israel, as well as the civilian victims of war and terrorism. It is a precious day that offers national solace to the memory of the fallen, as well as communal support to the families. Unlike America, where it is a day of shopping and play, here in the Holy Land, the character of the day is like a 24-hr fast from all public places of entertainment. All businesses, schools and stores are closed. All radio and TV station broadcasting is devoted to stories and songs dedicated to the fallen of Israel. Yom HaZikaron is officially observed for all of those who fell since 1860 when Jews were first allowed to live outside the city limits of Jerusalem in what was then known as “Palestine.”
One of the many commemorative practices that take place during the 24 hour period is the scroll of names that is broadcast by government-owned television stations. The names of the fallen are scrolled on the screen in chronological order (rank, name, Hebrew date of deceased and secular date) over the course of the day. Names appear for about 3 seconds each…..3 sacred seconds to remind us of the life they gave up for a cause they believed in with their very life.
My heart is especially heavy this year as the holy date approaches, for who would have imagined last year in 2015, what we would be faced with, as the high holidays arrived and terrorism reared its ugly, ferocious, beastly head. The losses are so fresh and so real and so painful. When one is close to the source of suffering, it is more intense and impactful.
I believe every Jew, wherever they may be, owes it to their nation to mark their calendar with the date of YOM HAZIKARON AND TO DEVELOP AN AWARENESS OF THE SACREDNESS OF THE DAY. This day bears a message for every Jew as to the debt of gratitude they owe to those who gave their lives in the fight for reclaiming our sovereignty in our G-d given land.
In a telling article written by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis in a pamphlet entitled, “Zionism, A Challenge to Man’s Faith,” she lays out the truth about what it is like to be a citizen of the State of Israel, on the line, as she tells the following story:
In the Holy City, I met a woman who related a tale which reflects the agony of Zionism in the 20th and now 21st century. The woman of Jerusalem had a son named David who was 20 years old. She had a sister, who lived in New York, who had a son the same age named Chaim. Chaim, the American cousin came to Jerusalem for a year of study. Then suddenly, the Yom Kippur War broke out. Both boys were in synagogue together praying side by side. David, still wrapped in his talit (prayer shawl), without pausing for food or water, ran to answer the call of his people. He bid farewell to his cousin, his mother, his father, and to his young bride. He felt he had no choice but to go forth to defend his people.
The following day, the mother in Jerusalem, received an emergency call from the United States. “Please, please, a near hysterical voice called across the great ocean…Where is my Chaim? Please do not let him do anything rash…you must find him and get him out on the first plane to safety. We are sick with worry. I want him home!” The mother in new York was overcome with fear…and somehow in her agitation forgot to ask about David….her sister’s son…the son of Jerusalem, whose heart at that very moment was pierced by a shell in the Golan….(Northern Israel).
TWO SISTERS…TWO MOTHERS…TWO SONS
The Rebbetzin then writes the following:
The story haunts me. It leaves me no peace…For indeed, if the land of Israel has been given by G-d as an inheritance to all Jews, then by what right do we in the United States go to sleep in security, knowing that our sons are well and sound, while our sisters lie awake with a gnawing fear gripping their hearts…asking the question, “Where is he now?” …whispering a silent prayer, Hashem, Almighty G-d watch over him…”
The Rebbetzin continues:
No matter how much the American Jew has given and will give on behalf of Israel, he will never equal the sacrifice of those who live there and offer their very lives for the land.
No Matter how much the American Jew continues to give, he will never be able to justify the fact that he belongs to the generation that was given Jerusalem yet opts for New York or Los Angeles.
To have witnessed 2,000 years…to have suffered the agonies of exile…to have dreamt and hoped to have been given the land only to reject it! How will the Jews in exile answer to future generations when they ask, “Where were YOU?”
The message of the day is clear….the Jewish nation owes its independence first and foremost for the miracle G-d wrought in returning us to our homeland but secondly to the pioneers, soldiers and citizens who have and will sacrifice their lives for its existence and its future.
Please take note of the day and honor the memory of its fallen and the families left behind. Also please offer special prayers for those victims still recovering.
IDF soldiers participate in a memorial ceremony on the Israeli national Memorial Day, in honor of fallen soldiers and the victims of terror attacks. Each soldier stands before the grave of a fallen serviceman.
Scheduling Yom HaZikaron right before Yom Haatzmaut is intended to remind people of the price paid for independence and of what was achieved by the soldiers’ sacrifice. This transition shows the importance of the day among Israelis, most of whom have served in the armed forces or have a connection with people who were killed during their military service.
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