–23,320.

That is the number of lives we remember on this day of Yom HaZikaron – The Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel.

Each a name.
Each a person.
Each a beating heart that was stilled.
Each the product of a mother and father.

Almost all with siblings and many with spouses or girlfriends and boyfriends.
Too many bicycles are left with no one to run alongside while the training wheels are removed.
Too many cry over one less to bandage a skinned knee or heal the broken heart of a teen-age crush.
Aisles walked down with only one parent escorting a bittersweet bride and groom to their beloved with their own set of fears.

Each name, tear drop and rose that grows from their resting place represents a shattered piece of a nation that will never be whole and never perfect in realization of the sacrifice given to make this small dream of thousands of years the reality of beauty, splendor, innovation and hope that it is today.

Hope is an important word for lovers of Israel. Hope is the blood that flows through our veins and pumps to all of our arteries. Hope is what keeps us alive. Without hope, we are lifeless.

Fillip Muller  – one of the only survivors of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz’s gas chambers who had the gruesome task for three years of herding fellow Jews to their death, explained through a prism we should never know of again, that when thousands of people vanished into smoke, we learned as a people the value and fragility of human life more than ever before. At the same time, hope was underscored as the fuel that kept him and the other survivors breathing.

“Hope lingers in man as long as he lives. Where there is life – hope can never be relinquished.”

Muller was a prisoner of hope.

The memory of our soldiers makes us all locked in that very same cell, hoping for a better day, a brighter day.

A day where memories are meaningful but the pain of loss is distant.

Where freshness is smelled of flowers and newly picked fruits and sweet pastries baked in the market places, not on turned soil and uprooted plants over graves.

This is why, on these juxtaposing days of Remembrance and Celebration, we turn as the Psalmist writes – from dark to light, from despair to triumph, from sorrow and worry to a boundless hope –we turn from the memory of our loss to the miracle of our founding – we are reminded of the anthem of our country.

Od Loh Avdah – Tikvateinu. We have not lost our hope. We never will. LeHiyot Am Hofshi, BeArtzeinu. To be a free people, in our nation, living alongside our neighbors in peace and making the world a better place. In our homeland – Eretz Yisrael.