Being the most painful day for the Israeli nation, the Israeli Memorial day marks for me, more than anything, solidarity and togetherness.
In its 64 years of existence, Israel has been through more than ten wars and operations, and endless terror events. To this day, 22993 Israelis have lost their lives in the battle for our homeland, 126 of which- in the past year.
Today, like every other year, the Israeli nation bows its head for the victims and heroes. No matter where you are or what you do, on 8pm the night before, and 11am in the morning- you will stop. At those times, a siren is heard throughout the country, and all Israelis stand still and show their respect and grief for those who lost their lives and their families.
Luckily, I haven’t lost anyone to terror or on the battlefield. None of my high-school classmates or my military service partners have lost their lives, nor a family member. Despite that, every year I can’t help feeling grief and sorrow. In the land where we address complete strangers as “brother” and “sister”, I can’t help feeling I lost 22,867 relatives. I am not a strange bird on the matter. On Memorial day, most people I know, even while not knowing any of the veterans and victims, go to at least one memorial ceremony, and cry. My friends and I go to our high-school, where the pupils read aloud the names of the graduates who are no longer with us and the school choir sings one of the many songs that were composed throughout the years, especially for this day. At the town square, and in every military base, soldiers stand, hats on their heads and weapons in their hands, and guard the memorial candle and the Israeli flag. I was one of them, just two years ego.
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. 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. But while the grief for some of my friends and I, fades away as we enter Independence Day, which is the next day, those families stay with the loss and carry it with them every waking minute. The loss is present in their lives every single day, and they carry it in every breath they take. 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 living here, and for those who did nothing but living, and were killed by suicidal terrorists for no reason.
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 to the families who experience this loss for another 364 days. 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.