Each year, Israel observes two somber days of remembrance within a week, followed by Independence Day celebrations throughout the country. The connection is profound.
Within a period of a week, we have two vitally important yet painful days of remembrance. On the day before Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, we observe Yom Hazikaron – Remembrance Day. On this extremely painful day we recall all the soldiers who gave their lives to ensure that we have a Jewish state.
Most of these heroes were killed at the tender ages of 18-25. We unite with parents who buried children, with wives who buried husbands, and with husbands who buried wives. We allow ourselves to feel the pain of children not knowing their father, whose only image of a parent is a stone in a cemetery.
On Yom Hazikaron, we also remember Israel’s victims of terror.
Only after 24 hours of such intense reflection do we proceed to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. This reminds us that our state did not come to us on a silver platter. The price is high.
On the eve of Yom Hazikaron, a siren will wail for two minutes at 8 p.m. and then again in the morning at 11 as the entire country comes to a standstill. Israel may very well be the only country in the world where Remembrance Day and Independence Day are back to back. In Israel, we can’t have one without the other. It would be sacrilegious to simply burst into celebration, considering our history and the events that led to the State. Indeed, it is no stretch to suggest that we are still fighting for our existence and independence as the list of countries trying to destroy us is still too long.
On Yom Hazikaron we set aside all that divides us. On this day – perhaps the only day of the year – we are all brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors. It doesn’t matter who we voted for a few weeks ago. It doesn’t matter how the next government will look. On this day our only interest is to respect and honor those soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our sake.
Exactly a week earlier we observed Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. That is the day, of course, on which we remember the six million Jews who were murdered simply because they were Jews. We need not elaborate on the horrors of the Holocaust in this column, our readership is well aware of what took place. On Yom HaShoah, too, there is a two-minute siren at 10 a.m. when we remember the devastation of the Nazi genocide. Again, we stand silent and united for 24 hours.
So we have two memorial days within a week. Two sirens. Two national tragedies. Two days of unity. But many might not realize how closely connected and even inseparable these two memorial days are. One reminds us of the price we pay to have a state, and the other reminds us of the price we pay if we don’t have one.
This is the first time in history that Jews have been able to defend themselves. History has proven time and time again that the Jewish People are not safe in any land other than their own. We can now defend ourselves against any inquisitions, Cossacks, crusades, expulsions, pogroms, Nazis, Hamas, and Iran. We need not and cannot rely on anyone else. We have no choice but to continue to fight for our existence, to fight for an independent Jewish state.
May our celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut this week remind us that we are safer and stronger when we have our own country. Let us celebrate the miraculous accomplishments that State of Israel has made in the last 73 years. In this short time, it has become a world leader in many industries and areas of expertise.
Yom Ha’atzmaut must be a day of unity that binds us despite our differences. We all need the State of Israel!