The Yom Hazikaron siren sounds, and, like the seams of a patchwork quilt that have suddenly come together, a people stands united, heads bowed, remembering. We remember the sons and daughters who lost their lives so that we could live. The brothers and sisters who gave up their futures to secure our future in our Land. The cherished souls who left huge holes in the lives of their loved ones, and the forgotten souls, whose loss cut off their family line for good, sacrificing their legacy to our history so that in our present we can face a future in the Jewish Homeland. Our Homeland.
We remember all of them. Those we knew and those we didn’t. We remember what we’ve seen, or heard, or experienced firsthand. We read, we watch, we listen and we fill our minds and our hearts with the ache of the loss. Then we turn around and our hearts swell with pride at how far we have come, and seeing the brave soldiers who continue to defend us, protect us, serve us – no, they are us.
To watch a ceremony for Yom Hazikaron – Israel’s Memorial Day – is to experience it. It is not something distant, remote, inaccessible or for the elite. The parents, brothers, sisters, children, friends and loved ones of our soldiers, the soldiers themselves, are everyone that you meet. They are all of us. The official State ceremony is held at the Kotel – the Western Wall; not at a cultural or political arena, but at a symbol of our deepest commitment to our history, and to our future; the spiritual apex of Israel. Attending are every type of Jew, each one touched by loss in a most personal way. Officials presenting included a secular president, a haredi rabbi, and a modern orthodox chazzan (cantor). There are no boundaries as to who is religious enough to recite the concluding mourner’s kaddish prayer, or too religious to sing Hatikva, ‘The Hope’, the Israeli national anthem. The thread of shared pain, and the thread of belonging is woven through each and every one.
Jews come in every color, from the palest white, to the blackest black. They are secular and religious. They are right wing, left wing and centrist. They are professionals, and scholars; they are rich and poor; young and old. They come from every corner of the globe. Some choose to make Israel their home; others may not be quite ready while still others feel satisfied to support her from afar. But still we are all a people. Any one of this People can choose to come Home.
The variations and differences may be without number, the bonds that unite us may sometimes seem as fragile as thread, but it is not thread alone. For it is the strands of thread that connect the multihued patches of each of us into the old, worn quilt that is our People. Though this patchwork quilt of a nation that we are may become tattered and frayed, it is warm, all encompassing, and can always be a source of comfort, and security for those who seek its shelter. May we use the warmth of this quilt to cover, embrace and protect our precious soldiers so that they, in turn, may always protect us.