Some thoughts on Yom HaZikaron

Today was Yom HaZikaron in Israel.

[Want information about today? Get basic information at My Jewish Learning or Jewish Virtual Library.]

I am reminded of the Yom HaZikaron when I lived in Israel. As is still the custom, the sirens blew twice – once at the beginning of the commemoration and once at 11 am (just at the start of the national memorial ceremony at Har Hazikaron {Israel’s national cemetery}). The moment the siren begins its plaintive wail, all action ceases. Meetings, phone calls, cars, buses – everything. People get out of cars and buses, standing in the street, honoring and remembering those who have died. The sirens wail is accompanied by silence and tears cover the land, permeating thought, deed and emotion. About 7 million people live in Israel and about 22,000 have died in Israel’s wars. Nearly everyone knows someone who has died – parent, child, sibling, extended family member, friend….

I attended the national ceremony around 11 am the morning of Yom HaZikaron. A large crowd was gathered at the cemetery, and there too the silence permeated by the siren was all encompassing. After the siren, the ceremonial speeches began along with prayers and wreath-laying. When the official activities ended, families fanned out throughout the cemetery, visiting their loved one’s graves, crying, talking, placing stones and some lying on top of the graves. The way the cemetery is set up, one can tell which are the most recent graves. Walking by them was heartbreaking. Grief poured forth and strangers comforted one another. All in Israel, all of the Jewish people are family.

To my Israeli family, my thoughts are with you today. Your sacrifices have not been in vain and are not taken for granted by this (currently) diaspora Jew.

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