Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day)
At 8 oâ€™clock tonight, a piercing minute-long siren jarred me out of my daydreaming as I washed up the dinner dishes.Â That siren, like the one last week on Yom HaShoah, is intended to do just that: Jar us. Startle us.Â Drown out every distraction so that we focus our minds and hearts on the personal pain and national tragedy of Israelâ€™s fallen soldiers.
The Yom HaZikaron siren reconnects Israelâ€™s 7 million citizens with the loss of the 22,437 soldiers who have been killed in combat. Since last Yom HaZikaron, 132 more soldiers have been killed.
Regardless of your politics, the reality of loss is at times staggering. I donâ€™t know a single person here who is untouched by it.Â Everyone knows someone â€“ a friend, a colleague, a parent, a sibling, a child â€“ who has been killed or wounded in the army.
In Israel, all 18 year-olds, boys and girls alike, are conscripted into the army.Â Men serve for three years of active duty â€“ and another 20 years of reserve duty.Â Women serve at least two years.Â The country has fought seven wars in its 60 years of existence.
This Yom HaZikaron, more than around one and a half million people will visit a military cemetery â€“ thatâ€™s one in every seven citizens (an astonishing statistic for me, as an American, who grew up so removed from the fundamental message of Memorial Day.)
Tomorrow at 11 am, the nation will honor another two minutes of silence, after which 40-some memorial ceremonies will take place at each of the nationâ€™s military cemeteries.Â Television and radio stations dedicate their programming tonight and tomorrow to remembering the fallen soldiers. Entertainment venues are closed.Â There is an air of mournful respect for all â€“ profound personal loss for many.
At 8 pm tomorrow night, Memorial Day will come to a close and Israel will begin celebrating its 60th Independence Day. This transition â€“ from mourning to rejoicing â€“ reminds the nation that from death comes life.Â For 25 hours, Israelis mourn their fallen soldiers.Â And then they allow themselves to celebrate the gift of national independence.
photo credit: flickr