In speaking with a friend last night as we walked to the local Yom Hazikaron Tekes, (Memorial Day Ceremony) in our city of Modi’in, she remarked how the day leading into the evening felt much like Yom Kippur.  As the day progressed, you felt a change in the general atmosphere of the country; a quieting of sorts.  On the radio, soft music was being played in honor of the fallen and the injured.  Stories of heroism and sacrifice were chronicled.

The sun begins to set and the mood completely descends and envelops.

It is a holy day.

At the ceremony itself, a city unites.  The entire field is a crush of humanity acknowledging the sacrifices that have been made.

After the siren, the lowering of the flag to half-mast, and the Kaddish is recited. Poems, writings, songs.

One of the poems asked the question:  how do we stand when the siren wails?  In silence, surely, at attention, of course, but does one put their head down in mourning and pain, remembering loved ones and thinking about the price our small country has paid for its freedom?  Or does one stand and look straight ahead with pride for all we have accomplished in 68+ years?

There is no right answer, obviously.  We all act as we feel.  In the past, I never actually knew what to do, would start off one way, glance around to see what people were doing and end off another way, always choked up by the siren’s gut-wrenching howl and all it represented.

Last night’s poem defined for me how I will stand at all ceremonies to come.

This morning, as is our custom, we visited the military cemetery of Modi’in.  When the siren began, I looked ahead.  I thought of the 23,447 sacrifices that have been made, far too many.  I thought of the sacrifices we will be asked to make again and again as we fight for our right to exist. I thought of tomorrow, when we will celebrate the 68th year of our sovereignty with song, dance and barbeque.  I thought of our strength, of the miracle we are and will continue to be, even with our struggles. I thought of the beginnings of our tiny country and how far we have come and how far we will go.

With all the pain of our losses, I am so proud.

From now on, I look ahead.