Monday, April 19, 2010

Yom HaZikaron

Today is Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day.  Unlike here in the United States it is not observed with family get-togethers and barbeques.  It is the most solemn of days.  Nearly everyone in Israel knows a soldier who fell in one of the country's many wars and battles.  Since the founding of the State 22,682 soldiers gave their lives in defense of the country.  To sum up Israel's pain Haaretz published a piece about Miriam Peretz who last year lost her younger son, Eliraz, in Gaza.  Now she is facing the impossible choice of having to decide by which grave to stand: the fresh grave of her younger son or that of his elder brother Uriel's, killed in Lebanon in 1998.  She says, "I am indeed not an angel. I can feel pain only in one place, to be comforted only in one place. Eliraz always came to be with me on Memorial Day, except when he was in military action."  Miriam said that after the death of her first son, she made a "deal with God" that He just not take another child from her. She remarks, "I should have made that promise to myself..."  Nationwide the day is marked by a two minute siren at 11 am.  All of Israel falls silent for these moments.  Here is a video clip of this observance.  The great Israeli poet Yehudah Amichai often wrote about war and conflict.  In Israel even poets went into battle.  Each generation goes to war thinking that the war it fights will be the last.  He writes:
My father fought their war four years or so,
and did not hate or love his enemies.
Already he was forming me, I know,
daily, out of his tranquilities;
tranquilities, so few, which he had gleaned
between the bombs and smoke, for his son's sake,
and put into his ragged knapsack with
the leftovers of my mother's hardening cake.
He gathered with his eyes the nameless dead,
the many dead for my sake unforsaken,
so that I should not die like them in dread,
but love them, seeing them as once he saw.
He filled his eyes with them; he was mistaken.
Like them, I must go out to meet my war.
Indeed!  May the deaths we mark on this day grant us peace and tranquility.  May we not know endless war and bloodshed.  Amen.

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