This evening and tomorrow, until nightfall, is Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron. I heard that the day was going to be very different than the United States’ Memorial Day, which is usually celebrated as a day off with a trip to the beach and some barbecue. I grew up visiting cemeteries every Memorial Day with my grandfather who would place American flags at the graves of all our family members that served in the military, which is quite a few. Even with all the time spent at different grave sites, I never thought of the day as a somber day. Israel’s observance of Yom Hazikaron is similar to the observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was just about a week ago. Many restaurants and stores have closed this evening. The only way to know it isn’t Shabbat is from the amount of cars still driving through the streets.
After watching Israelis of various backgrounds observing a minute of silence on Holocaust Remembrance Day, I knew I wanted to get a better view for the moment of silence for Memorial Day. The first siren for the day was at 8:00 p.m. Just a few minutes before I left my apartment to walk towards a park that was filled with people and near a major intersection. With just a couple of minutes to spare I found my way to the top of a bridge overlooking the park and many Jerusalem streets below. I watched cars and people pass. The siren began. I knew it was coming, that was why I was standing on the bridge after all, yet I was taken completely by surprise. My heart skipped a beat and I stopped breathing for a split second as the stillness took over the city below me. Balls stopped bouncing. Bicycle wheels halted, and dare I believe that even the dogs stopped in their tracks. As far as my eyes could see, people stood on their feet in absolute silence. Cars abandoned. Conversations paused. For that minute, it felt as even thoughts were suspended. It was truly one of the most moving sights I have ever witnessed. It was one of those moments where I am more grateful than I thought I ever could be to be in Israel.
Thank you to all the soldiers and other service men and women who have made it possible for not only me but millions to call Israel “Home”.
Yesterday, the 17th of Tammuz, the walls of Jerusalem were breached. Today, almost 2000 years later, we are fasting for this breach to our sacred space.
How relevant is the Fast of Tammuz to Jews today. In the year 5772 we are fortunate enough to have Jerusalem and the rest of Israel as a free Jewish homeland. In about two months, I will get on a plane to make this Land my home, but today, by fasting I am recognizing the insecurity of the Land both then and now.
All life is so fragile, not only for Jews and not only Israel. In a world where we constantly struggle to obtain more and are seldolmly satisfied with what we have it is easy to forget that everything sits in an instable state of here today and gone tomorrow. It takes an illness or another’s loss to make us step back and count our blessings, but I feel the 17th of Tammuz comes to remind us that life is uncertain and unsecure. We can experience loss at any moment (and will in just 3 weeks with Tisha b’Av), so let us take time to appreciate everything we have today.
This past week, I found out where in Israel I will be living for the next year. I was extremely excited and suddenly the fact that I am going to be living in Israel became real. I have been talking and thinking about it for so long, but having the actual location and grant terms in my hands made my heart skip a beat. Immediately, I began to think about how lucky I am that it is written in the stars for me to make Israel my home. I think of the thousands of Jews throughout the centuries who knew Israel was their home but were prevented from living in the land. I think of Moshe, the greatest prophet of all, who also wasn’t able to go into the Promised Land. I count my blessings everyday and now I have a very important one to add, one that can easily be taken for granted. I will try my best to remind myself and be grateful because I am in the minority of the Jewish people throughout history.