Something quite extraordinary happened last night: 25,578 stars shined bright. All together, all of a sudden. It was in the middle of my town square, as thousands of citizens shared an hour of remembrance and respect for 25,578 Fallen Israeli Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism. We all stood there together, shoulder to shoulder, and listened to names being read, stories being told and candles being lit. It was so cramped I could feel the people behind, in front, and next to me breathing. At times, I could hear someone break into tears, as others embrace him or her, supporting, physically and mentally. When the cantor started chanting the El Male' Rachamin ("God, abounding in mercy") prayer, I looked to the sky, and noticed how all the stars turned brighter and sparkled like never before. It was them, our heroes. Still watching, still guarding, still young and smiling, just like in the pictures we see.
On this day, our Memorial Day, we are all together. On this day it seems, more than ever, like all of Israel are brothers and sisters. On this day, we all salute the young boys and girls who died while protecting Israel and Israelis from the enemies who try to take us down, over and over again, since 1948. Every year, more names appear on the memorial wall. More names who were once people, who could have lived a full life if it wasn't for our everlasting battle for our home.
The Israeli soldiers, who lost their lives in wars since 1948 to this very day, took the bullet for my family and me, so we could sleep at night. Some were 18 year olds, young men and women who just finished high-school and were getting ready to begin their lives. Others were older people with families who were called to serve again, just for the war-time. When thinking about those veterans, there is no left wing or right wing. Sometimes it doesn't matter whether deaths were in vain or for a higher cause. The only thing that matters is the loss, and the support we can provide for the families who experience this loss for another 364 days.
Everything is different that day: the radio only plays quiet songs, the television broadcasts Memorial Day specials and most of the stores are closed. Every working place, campus, military base and school, conducts a ceremony, and a national ceremony is held in Jerusalem. On 11am, everyone stops everything they're doing, and we all bow our heads in a 2 minute long siren, heard all over the country. But it is not just the official atmosphere which is different; it's also what each and every one of us feels inside. None of us pretends, and it is not a façade- it is real. We are all Israelis, and we share that Israeli experience every day. We all know each other, and we all share the grief with the families who lost their loved ones. For one day, all citizens of Israel share that loss with them, and show the proper respect for those who fought for our right to continue to live here, and for those who did nothing but living, and were killed by suicide terrorists for no reason.
Tomorrow, we will celebrate our 65th Independence Day. Many are against placing the saddest day of the year only a few hours before the happiest one. They say it is not right to abruptly switch grief with joy. For some, this transition is impossible, and for years they skipped the Independence Day celebration. I am not sure what I think of that, but I do know one thing: Israel has turned 65 on Tuesday thanks to the 25,578 stars which are now shining bright in the sky. For 65 years, we feel protected and safe thanks to those stars, and we owe our lives to them.
I read this sentence I just wrote, and can't believe the words. Israel has been a state for 65 years now, and for some reason, it still fights for its existence. How can this be? How did it happen? Can you imagine still needing to fight for your home? It is absurd, but somehow it is just the way things have been here for 65 years now.
Every year, those who recruit to the IDF carry the same prayer in their hearts: May my children will not need to recruit, may we have no need in the IDF in the future…My parents said this prayer 30 yeas ago, I said it four years ago, and my brother said it a year and a half ago. Now all I can pray for is that this long chain of prayers will finally stop. That there will be no more deaths for the sake of our people and for the sake of our home. That we could all finally live in peace, here and in the area.
In memory of those who are no longer with us, who, like flowers, were picked up in their bloom, I light a candle. For their family members, I salute you. May they all rest in peace and may there be no more early deaths.