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Memorial at my son’s Gan – Kindergarten

Where do all the tears go? Is what I ask myself as I stand in the beating sun at the Yom Hazikaron – Memorial Day ceremony for the fallen soldiers and victims of terror at my children’s primary school. It is a commemoration run by the school children. Together they present and tell the stories of fallen soldiers, call everyone to silence for the siren at 11:00 am, raise the flag, blow the trumpets and march with flags in preparation for Yom Haatzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. Parents, children and old people from the area stand and sit together in commemoration of those who fell in battle, who were murdered by terrorists, who were at the front line for us to live as we do in Israel today.

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Grade 6 Leading the Memorial Ceremony

Freedom and independence comes at a price, as the principal of the school reminded us this morning.

Watching the future generation pay solemn tribute to the broad shoulders that they stand on is a very moving event, and the tears couldn’t stop falling. All the mothers wept behind their big sun glasses. (Just like last year which was my first experience of Yom Hazikaron.) No mother wants her son to go to the army. No mother wants their child to know of such evil in the world, of senseless killings of the innocent which we have to defend ourselves from. And yet we take our children to the ceremonies, they run the ceremonies, they know of their inheritance.

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Grade 3 – Flag Ceremony

The Jewish story is a story about process. Just as it was with Pesach, which we finished celebrating a couple of weeks ago, where we left Egypt to become a free people, and yet it took us forty years of wandering to reach the Promised Land, so too today with our modern Jewish story. We are a nation in process, and our modern commemoration and celebrations days reflect this.

Yom HaShoah was last week where the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust were mourned. It’s in their merit that we have a Jewish country of our own today as the founders of Israel and all who invested their lives in it declared, ‘Never Again!’

Today on this Memorial Day the flag of Israel is at half mast. We are mourning 23,544 fallen IDF soldiers and terror victims since the establishment of the State of Israel. Each with their own story, their own family, their own mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters, who are now privately mourning their loss. And they are not alone, as all of Israel has gone quiet today. Licking its wounds, trying to salve the nation’s bleeding, sad soul.

Already as the afternoon progresses and the sun begins its steady descent into nightfall, the flags have risen again. Everyone’s spirits are roused as the celebrations begin, and the switch from intense sadness to equally intense joy begins. The dissonance is hard to bare. Both bring forth tears.

The only way I can explain Yom Haatzmaut and it’s ecstatic happiness in the shadow of the deep loss of Yom Hazikaron is that they are about the same thing. Those who died, sacrificed their lives for us to live in peace and security. Not to celebrate our country, our nation and our children on this day, is to say they died in vain. We need to celebrate, be it through prayerful songs of gratitude to God with the special Yom Haatzmaut minyanim that take place throughout the country, or through getting together with family and friends and barbecuing, which is the national custom of the day.

Unity, gratitude, and happiness are the biggest acts of gratitude that we can undertake for our dead. We dance and sing on Yom Haatzmaut not despite the sadness but because of it. Because we appreciate the great sacrifice that establishing this country has taken. And we all know that living here and investing in our country as Jews we are making sure that the tears for the 6 million and the 22,544 are not shed in vain.

Chag Yom Haatzmaut Sameach!

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