Today is Israel’s Memorial Day Eve, in honor of the soldiers we lost in the wars, combats, missions, training. It always starts the evening before our Independence Day (called Yom Hatzmaut ) evening, so one day follows the other.
As an Israeli living in the USA, bearing and raising my two children here, I have a hard time with the way Memorial Day is conducted here.
I want to ask for your input to help me understand why it is this way.
As far as I can remember, we children and adults learned about—or should I say tattooed on our hearts the soldiers that sacrificed their lives for a higher cause than their personal lives, interests, and ambitions. They sacrificed it for a higher cause of defending Israel, the Jewish State, where all Jews can live freely and safely and celebrate our independence. As we say, they are the reason we are able to sleep at night. And for that we thank and think of them, realizing that the next day we celebrate their achievement: a State of Israel that will be 72 years old, still a young nation.
Memorial Day in Israel isn't taken lightly as it shouldn’t be anywhere in the world. On Memorial Day Eve you can feel it in the air, a somber feeling. All radio stations are playing meaningful, quiet songs as a sign of remembrance. Cinemas and theaters are closed. All shows on TV are dedicated to documentaries, stories and interviews with families each of whom is telling the story of their solider and their way of coping with their loss.
Memorial Day officially starts just after sunset. There is a special ceremony at the grounds of the Kotel (Western wall) with all official members of the Knesset (Parliament) , Heads of all military branches , dignitaries and members from families of the fallen soldiers. It is broadcasted all over the country. At 8pm sharp a two minutes siren which is heard all over the country, while we all stand still in their memory and a large torch is lit until the closing ceremony the next day after sunset.
I remember going to school the next day. We had an assembly, and in every special occasion we all wore white shirt and blue pants or skirt, the colors of the flag of Israel. Following the ceremony, each class took its wreathe. Two of my classmates were holding the wreath. And the rest of us were in a long line behind them. Next, with our teachers guidance, we all walked to the monument for the fallen soldiers to lay our wreathe there.
At exactly 11 a.m. a siren is heard all over the country for two whole minutes. People are expecting it but in a few seconds the whole country and I mean everyone stops whatever they are doing and stand still for those 2 minutes. I want you to imagine all the cars anywhere on the highway, on the roads, all equipment stopped people getting out of their cars to stand still.
2 special minutes, where each one of us becoming one.
In those moments all you can hear is the loud siren penetrating the air, as if to reach our hearth and shake it to remind us never to forget. We are the only evidence of their heroic sacrifice.
And yes, we all experience it year after year.
Following the closing ceremony, there is the official announcement, it’s time to celebrate and rejoice of the greatest gift we got- our freedom as an independent state.
I moved to the USA over 30yrs. ago. My husband and I raised two beautiful children. I became an American citizen, which I’m proud of. I like the people and I’m feeling fortunate to be living in a free democratic society.
I have witnessed Veterans Day, honoring all American soldiers who lost their lives for a higher causes.
We have a whole weekend, long weekend dedicated just for them, which I think is wonderful
I remember when my children were in school, at the morning assembly the headmaster of the school explained to us why the flag will be raised to only half mast, as it should be.
There are ceremonies all over the country. They are very special moments, at times painful and at the same time can be fond memories. These ceremonies are usually attended by the survivors, their families, friends, and military dignitaries.
These soldiers fought not only protecting the USA, they fought to defend and assure the safety of other people in the world.
There is no doubt that Americans including me cherish the soldiers’ actions and sacrifices. Unfortunately, the people who actually attend and are aware are a small percent of the population.
Where are our officials and authorities who should be the force behind and guidance to instill those values in our children? Where are we, who choose to pass the weekend, enjoying barbeque gathering or shopping enjoying discounts?
In Israel serving in the military is mandatory, but here our soldiers choose to join! People actually choose to join to serve even though they know and understand there are dangers. However they choose to do it! That’s admirable.
I always get emotional when I talk about this subject. I always took it personally.
Life is full of surprises. Who would imagine that my son who was fascinated with planes and flight would choose to join the USN and become a helicopter pilot? This child of mine, like many, chose all by his own will to become a military pilot. And as I write this to you he is on deployment. And like him there are thousands of men and women who have the desire to serve, and at this moment are stranded on their ships or bases quarantined due the Covid-19, wearing masks all day long.
These are some of my thoughts. I hope by sharing I gave you food for thoughts.
I wonder, as an Americans does anyone feel like me?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Send me an email to continue the conversation.