Rreflections on Yom Hazikaron by Mor Shaliach & Noah Levy.
They are all only faces and names. Thousands of them.
Every year, in Israel, at this time, I’m trying to memorise as many names as I can. Trying to insert into my mind, some names that might be forgotten in the future. But I will not let it happen. They will never be forgotten. Names that I will be able to keep alive, and tell people that I will meet, that because of them, we have Medinat Israel. Names that need to be remembered, even though they are dead.
When you’re far from home – only then – you realize: there are too many names to remember. You ask yourself questions: How can I remember them, when the local media does not remind me? How can I give their respect, when pubs and restaurants are opened all around? How can I remember them, when there’s no 2 minutes siren to smash my routine at 11:00am exactly? Israel has a unique atmosphere at this day, but I’m trying to adapt it today – as much as I can.
When I was in high school, I used to go in the morning of every Yom HaZikaron to our school’s ceremony. Mentioning tens of names of people, that remained at the same age – forever. Those people, graduated from my high school, joined the IDF or other Israeli forces, and died while defending our tiny Jewish country. At this ceremony, lots of names were mentioned. I’ve never met these people, and I will never meet, but their names – are all based strongly in my head.
Few years later, when I graduated, it was my turn to wear these uniforms. I joined the IDF. When you are a soldier, everything feels different. Now it is your responsibility to make sure that the state of Israel, the only Jewish state in the world is safe. For 3 years, I returned as a graduate to my school in my uniform. The same uniform that the fallen, whose names are mentioned every year again and again, used to wear before they lost their lives.
4 years ago, I finished my army service. My friends fought in Gaza recently, some of them came back wounded, and others lost friends, soldiers and commanders there. I remember their names and faces. Because they fought and died for me to sit today and write these words.
This is the second year in a row that I’m not in Israel at this time of the year. Yom HaZikaron is the most powerful day in my year. This day reminds me why I’m here, in the Jewish community of United Kingdom, meeting Zionist youth who care about Jewish continuity and the future of the state of Israel – our Israel. This day reminds me why I’m doing the things that I’m doing. At this day, I remember them all and thank them for letting us the freedom to live in our homeland.
Thanks to them we can sing, proudly, this phrase from the Israeli anthem.
“Lihiyot Am Chofshi Be Artzenu” – To be a free people in our land.
I’ve always found that for British people, particularly the youth, connecting with Yom HaZikaron is somewhat challenging, so as an educator you’re perplexed as to the most meaningful way to educate on the topic. But despite what Mandela says about education being the most powerful weapon, sometimes, emotion is.
On Tour 2015, at Mt. Hertzl, we saw a girl in uniform, younger than me, lying over her siblings gravestone and wailing. This reduced almost our whole group to tears because for that moment, they felt the pain of that girl. They felt what it was like for every Israeli to have a story about a bereaved friend or relative. This moment where I saw our British chanichim embracing our Israeli chanichim proved that at times like this emotion is what creates understanding.
We will never truly understand this Israeli reality, but as British people living in the diaspora, we can listen, and we can mourn. So today, try and reach out to one of your Israeli madrichim, or chanichim, or any Israeli you may have met on whatever programme, and talk with them, try to feel what they are feeling, and that is how we, as Zionists can connect and understand Yom HaZikaron.