On Yom Hazikaron, we remember those who have fallen along Israel's road to peace
by Alisa Warshavsky, St. Paul Community Shlicha (Israeli Emissary)
I start this article by telling you this: The feeling of Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) in Israel cannot properly be described in words or photos. To truly understand how the Israeli people feel on Yom Hazikaron, you need to experience it in Israel.
On Yom Hazikaron we honor and remember our sons and daughters that have been killed in Israel’s ongoing struggle for a peaceful existence. We remember not only soldiers, but also civilians who were killed in terror attacks and wars. On this day, we truly feel the price that we pay to live in the State of Israel.
As Israeli citizens we share the feeling of pride in our Zionism alongside the deep pain and sadness for the ones we have lost. Almost every Israeli has family members or friends to visit on Yom Hazikaron to express condolences.
I could write about the number of soldiers that we have lost. I could write about soldiers and civilians who died heroically. I could write about innocent kids who were taking a bus when a terrorist blew up the bus. But to help you understand what Israelis feel, I have decided to share excerpts from two letters written by people who are close to my heart.
From a letter Tal H. wrote about her brother Or:
When I graduated from high school he wasn’t there.
On my first day in the army when all of the families were walking with the soldiers, and all the older siblings were cheering, he wasn’t there.
When I finished basic training and all the parents came to the ceremony, I looked for him and he wasn’t there.
Every birthday, I look for him. I don’t want gifts from him or even a card, just for him to be there.
Every family dinner I close my eyes for a minute and imagine him, laughing with me about the adults’ boring conversation, but he isn’t there. His voice is gone, I can’t hear him yell at me or laugh with me.
I wonder a lot, how can it be that I’m getting older but you are not. How did it happen that I, your little sister, am already at an age that you will never be?
I will keep looking for you wherever I go. When I travel after the army, I will look for you at the airport, even though I know you won’t be there, waiting for me with balloons.
At my wedding, or when my kids will be born, I will look for you, but I know you won’t be there.
I will look for you everywhere. Love Tal, your little sister.
From a letter that Moshe T. wrote to his son Yosi:
Yosi, how can I stop the tears? You are gone, and I feel your absence so strongly. You left a space in us that cannot be filled.
Yosi, you were too perfect to be real, it was so hard to get the announcement – that Yosi is gone - and even harder to say goodbye at the funeral. That was the most difficult moment in my life: your funeral. My beloved son is being buried in the ground.
Yosi, I try to say goodbye, I try and don’t succeed. I don't know how to go on without you. You will always live in my thoughts and my dreams. As warm tears fall on your cold grave, I hope that one day we will meet in some different place.
I bought for your mother and I the plot next to your grave so you won’t feel lonely, so you will know we are always with you.
Yours forever, Dad.
Tal recently finished her army service, where I was lucky to serve as her commander. She chose to join her brother's former unit because she so strongly believes in the importance of defending our country. She has the strength to say that there is no other place for her to live.
Moshe lost his son 8 years ago and since then he and his wife have devoted their lives to the memorialization of Yosi, staying in touch daily with the Israeli Defense Forces, and doing endless volunteer work with the Israeli police.
The lives of Tal and Moshe tells the story of the state of Israel - a story of a country where we still pay a dear price for our existence. On Yom Hazikaron, on this one day a year, we all lower our heads, and join Tal and Moshe, and countless others, in remembering our loved ones that have fallen along Israel’s road to peace.