During May, both the United States and Israel will mark their respective Memorial Days. While the American version will have many remembrance events, most people will spend the day at barbecues, picnics or at the beach. This is not the case in Israel.
On the evening of May 8, as happens each year, all entertainment establishments are closed. There is not a family in Israel that does not have a family member, or at least a friend, who has lost a relative in Israel's wars. In fact, the country literally comes to a halt when a siren call stops all Israelis for two minutes of contemplation and to honor the memories of those who gave their lives for the Jewish state.
They gave their lives in many places. Israeli soldiers, over the years, have not only fought for the citizens of Israel but in missions in Entebbe, in Europe and during rescue efforts in Ethiopia to protect Jews, wherever they might be. For that reason, I am confused by the fact that Yom Hazikaron is not on the agenda of the Jewish community here in Los Angeles. In fact, some prominent Jewish community leaders have made it clear that they were sorry if I was caused any discomfort or unease by the fact that they had other plans for the evening.
I was taken aback by the response. The affront was not towards me. I fear that the distance and the relative safety of Southern California may have caused us to lose our ties with the fact that more than 20,000 men and women have given their lives over the last 52 years for the security of Israel. As you read these words, our soldiers remain on duty in Lebanon and on the Golan Heights. Pilots are on alert and the Israeli navy patrols the Mediterranean. The men and women of Israel have, for generations now, been asked to give up the best years of their lives to defend our homeland. Some don't just lose two or three years, some don't come home.
We mark other auspicious dates on our calendar -- Yom HaShoah, which memorializes victims of the Holocaust, and Yom Yerushalayim, the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem -- which commemorate modern Jewish milestones along with more traditional holidays like Chanukah and Purim. Why is it that such a central event that marks the huge price paid for the safety of Israel is not on the radar of so many here?
Let's change that. Each year the Consulate General of the State of Israel organizes a memorial ceremony at Congregation Adat Ari El on May 8 to honor and identify with those heroes who stood and fell. Please join with me, not just for the people of Israel but for all of us who have benefited from the efforts of these soldiers.
We often talk of ourselves as am echad (one people). I believe that is true. By commemorating Memorial Day together, we will take one more step in enhancing the vital Diaspora-Israel relationship and making am echad a reality.
The ceremony marking Israel's fallen soldiers will take place May 8 at 7 p.m at Temple Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd. in Valley Village.
Yuval Rotem is Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles.