The past and the future are in our hands.
Photo taken by Karen Gillerman
The story of Israel is often being described here with the sentence: From Holocaust to revival (free translation from Hebrew).
In the 1940’s, the Jews, who were scattered all over the world, faced destruction by an evil monster with a twisted mind and great charisma. Being ruthlessly abused by beasts, and forced to let go of the remains of their respect, European Jews were stripped of their humanity, going through something worse than hell, something that no one could ever believe was possible, and which was hard to grasp or understand. Six million lost their lives by the cold hearts and warm rifles of the Nazis, and very few survived, and became a living testimony for the Holocaust horrors. Those survivors swore to never let this happen again by building a land to call their own.
On the 5th of the Hebrew month Iyar, Israel declared its independence, and became the land of the Jews, a place to call “home” for those who were hunted on foreign lands - a place where the Jewish people will always feel safe. Out parents and grandparents built and developed this land with their bare hands, working day and night, and started what later became one of the greatest armies in the world, an army which will always protect the citizens of Israel from attacks and harm.
Being a desired strategic location, which suddenly came out of nowhere, our neighbors weren’t in the mood to ask for some sugar, and we found ourselves in constant war, since the day of the independence declaration. In its 64 years of existence, Israel went through tough wars, and lost tens of thousands of soldiers in battle. Soldiers who fought for our protection and for our homeland, and soldiers who were sons, daughters, fathers and mothers, lost their lives for the citizens of Israel, and allowed it to keep existing, being a safe and secure place for Jews. Israeli soldiers, serving in the IDF, just like my brother now, still risk their lives every day in order to protect the Israeli people. Every year, more and more families join the circle of loss, as more names are added to the list of war veterans who lost their lives for us.
This story of Israel, which is still being written, is told every year, during one week during April or May (The Hebrew months Nissan and Iyar). On the 27th of Nissan, we mention the national Holocaust Day; on the 4th of Iyar we mention the national Memorial Day; on the 5th of Iyar we mention our Independence Day. Those three dates tell the story of Israel, in order: we survived the Holocaust to build the state of Israel. From having nothing, we got to have everything, but sadly, this “everything” had its toll, when we lost many on our fight for our home. On these three days, there is no school and in most cases, no work. Ceremonies are held in every public facility, and a grand nation - wide ceremony takes place in Jerusalem and is aired on national television. During those three days- stores are closed, just like Shabbat, only the entire nation is committed to the essence of the special day.
During the Holocaust Day and Memorial Day, the entire television broadcast changes. Besides television specials, no comedies or “light” shows or movies are aired. Some of the international channels are blocked for viewing, and hundreds of movies, series and documentaries are aired. At 10 am, a siren is heard all over Israel. At this point- every Israeli stops his or her current action, and stands still. Cars pull over, forks and knives are put down, and everything is silent. Nothing is heard, except for the siren, as people unite with the memories of the day.
On the night between Memorial Day and Independence Day, we gradually go from grief to celebration and party on grand concerts and colorful events which are held in every city. We celebrate our independence, while the memory of the loss is fresh and always on our minds.
This meaningful week is my most intense Israeli experience, and where I feel the most connected to my home. Whenever I feel like I want to see the world, and move out of here for good, I remember the purpose of this place. I remember why it is so important to have a place of our own, a safe place that took the lives of many, just for us to keep living in it.
As we approach this week, I wish all of you a life of fulfillment, wherever you are, just like our grandparents lived theirs, when Israel declared its independence. Dreams exist for realization, so that we can have essence to our lives. Go and live your dreams, wherever you are and wherever you may go. But no matter where you are- remember where your home is, where your family is. This is the safest place in the world.