It’s impossible to replicate the feeling of Yom HaZikaron in Israel here in the United States. We cannot sound a national siren. We cannot get out of our cars on the highway and stand in silence. We cannot grieve as one for our thousands of fallen soldiers and victims of terror.
The only parallel I can think of is for the victims of September 11. I remember that the New York Times would publish a few obituaries each day of the thousands of victims to honor their memories and not be forgotten. That, along with U2’s touching tribute to the victims at Super Bowl XXXVI, was poignant.
The question of how to commemorate those who have fallen in defense of Israel outside of Israel is tricky. Last night at Prozdor, rather than trying to commemorate 22,993 victims at once, we made the decision last night to select four.
- Joseph Trumpeldor, the one-armed Russian soldier who fell at the Battle of Tel Hai in 1920, and uttered on his deathbed, Ein davar, tov lamut b’ad artzenu
- Yonatan Netanyanu, the lone Israeli soldier killed at the heroic Entebbe rescue mission in 1976.
- Yossi Tabeja, the Ethiopian immigrant who was killed at the beginning of the Second Intifada in September 2000 by his Palestinian patrol partner outside of Kalkilya.
- Michael Levin, the an American who made aliyah after going to Ramah, USY, and Alexander Muss High School in Israel, and was killed during the Second Lebanon War.
We read their stories, sat with candles and somber music, read the El Malei Rachamim prayer, and listened to the beautiful singing of Shir HaMaalot by one of our Israeli teachers.
These four stories are at once profound, saddening, somber, and inspirational. Unfortunately they are only four out of 22,993.
As we join in the commemoration of Yom HaZikaron, we should all take the time to read about these fallen heroes, and to read the stories of others, to honor their memories and their ultimate sacrifice.