Two-minute nationwide siren sounds at 11 A.M. to commemorate the 22,993 IDF soldiers who died during their service. Todays’s services came a day after a ceremony for Israel’s fallen soldiers was held on Tuesday evening on the eve of Memorial Day in cities across Israel.
I follow a blog that I have really enjoyed reading and wanted to share their post today about ‘The Siren’.
From Vov, over at Importantlytrivial.com:
“As the double days of Israel’s Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) have arrived, I once again find myself reflecting on the meaning of this juxtaposition of official holidays, one representing the ultimate sadness of a people; the second, the ultimate national joy.
As with all Jewish holidays, Yom HaZikaron begins at sunset. Every year, there are annual ceremonies that take place around the country attended by many important political figures as well as families of deceased soldiers or terror victims. Last night at sundown, I stood at the ceremony at Kikar Rabin (Rabin square) amongst thousands of people whilst a 60 second siren blared across the country to signal the start of Yom Hazikaron and life stood still as the meaningfulness of memory took over the nation. Though I might not have understood all of the words from the speeches that were given, I could not possibly have avoided the tone of the atmosphere, the sense of collective mourning and remembrance and the acknowledgement that no one escapes unscathed.
Three years ago, I went with my youth group (FZY) to Har Herzl, a cemetery in Jerusalem for Israeli leaders and fallen soldiers. We handed out flowers and candles to families that were coming to pay their respects. We watched the swarms of people around the newest graves but we also noticed the much more lonely graves of soldiers who died decades ago— perhaps with no one left to come visit them. So we went around and ensured that each and every grave lay at least one bouquet of flowers, laid there carefully to make certain that everyone was remembered and no one was to be forgotten. As I walked on further by myself to visit more graves, I approached an old lady who was sitting by herself. She asked me if she could hold my hand and recite to me why she was there and tell me a little bit about the grave we were sitting by. I sat with this brave woman for 45 minutes and heard all about her grandson who died in the Yom Kippur war in 1973. As i sat there welling up with tears, I apologized to her and I can remember her saying to me, “Darling, it is OK. You may not have known my grandson but you know that he fought for you to be here and so your connection to him is inevitable.”
And it was at that exact moment when I realized that to watch a ceremony for Yom Hazikaron is to experience it. It is not something distant, remote, inaccessible or for the elite. The parents, brothers, sisters, children, friends and loved ones of our soldiers, the soldiers themselves, are everyone that you meet. They are all of us. Israel is one united nation who feels each others’ pain, celebrates each others’ happiness and unifies together for any given reason.
As the sun sets to mark the end of Yom Hazikaron and the start of Yom Ha’atzmaut, a bizarre and difficult transition takes place. The change from grief and sadness to uninhibited celebration is one that is difficult to grasp. As the flags fly at half mast, communities gather together in memory of their fallen citizens, high schools and military bases to name their students and soldiers that embody the heroism of Israel for each generation to remember. But as soon as Yom Ha’atmaut commences, the Israeli flag is once again returned to full staff and we can celebrate the independence of (in my opinion) the most special country in the world.
This evening, when Yom Hazikaron transforms into Yom Ha’atzmaut, a popular understanding is that we can only celebrate if we commemorate those who sacrificed. But there is another, parallel concept; there is also the moment when we remember and, at the same time, not celebrate as we do on Independence Day, but we dream.. We dream of a future of peace!
Yizkor – יזכור – Remember,
I think my feelings are summed up pretty well with the following Beatles clip:
Yizkor – יזכור – Remember.
Update: Photos (and Hebrew article) from today, click here for Haaretz story.